Some, if not most of us, had been through the ringer. A little boy went to the grocery store and asked the clerk for a box of detergent soap. The clerk asked the boy why he needed detergent. “I want to wash my dog,” he said. “Well, son, this detergent is pretty strong for washing a little dog.” The boy replied, “That’s what I want. He’s mighty dirty.” About a week later he returned. The store clerk, recognizing him, asked him about his dog. “Oh, he’s dead,” said the boy. “Oh, I’m sorry,” replied the clerk. “I guess the detergent was too strong.” “I don’t think the detergent hurt him,” said the boy. “I think it was the rinse cycle that got him.”
St. Paul encourages us in his letter that the trials and sufferings in this life are actually God’s blessings and grace. They are signs that God loves us. “Whom the Lord loves, he disciplines,” he wrote. So, do not lose heart when reproved by him. God treats you as sons. For what “son” is there whom his father does not discipline?
Doing good and following the will of God can be an experience of paradox, challenge and inspiration. Some of us might find it difficult not just to do well, but simply to do good and be good. There are some wide gates in our lives that would always look inviting and the temptation to rush through it can sometimes be very overwhelming. Be careful, Jesus seems to be saying. Easy come, easy go.
Jesus cautions us to enter through the narrow gate. We choose the narrow gate whenever we love that person who does not even love us in return. We choose the narrow gate whenever we forgive that person who hurt us so badly. We choose the narrow gate whenever we stand up for what is morally right and just.
It is the better way, as our hearts would also tell us. Our good Lord is not saying that we refrain from choosing things that are fun and cool. That would be defeating the purpose of creating the world and its beauty. Eat, Pray and Love, as the movie title suggests. Rather he is teaching us that we find him only when we enter through the unappealing, uninteresting and boring narrow gate. Love, Pray and then Eat because in that narrow gate is heaven where there is an everlasting feast.
How do we enter through the narrow gate? Since the gate is narrow, the answer to this question relies on who we are and what we are carrying. We will not be able to enter through the narrow gate if we are full of ourselves and our egos are horizontally challenged, the politically correct term for the ugly F word, F-A-T.
We need to shape up in order that we will be shipped up. Shaping up means going on a diet and exercising, or in a spiritually correct term fasting and feasting. We need to fast from bitterness and feast on compassion, fast from thoughts of illness and feast on God’s healing power, fast from discontent and feast on gratitude, fast from complaining and feast on appreciation, fast from discouragement and feast on hope. We need to fast from anger and feast on patience.
A young mother was sick in bed when her nine-year old daughter walked in from school. Thinking her mother was asleep; she quietly unfolded the blanket at the foot of the bed and gently tucked it around her mom. The mother stirred, then whispered, “It wasn’t too long ago that I was tucking you in. And now you’re covering me.” The little girl, bending over her mother, replied, “We take turns.”
This is why we need each other. What is the point of heaven if we do not see people we love after the narrow gate? God has a narrow gate so people won't push and shove to get in," says Allen, 10 years old and Brittany, 7 years old says, "You have to wait your turn to get in."
We had been through the ringer. The detergent was too strong and the rinse cycle got us. Getting through the gate may be a tight squeeze. But if we squeeze each other tight, we might make it. Or rather, we will make it.
22 August 2010