Thou has made known to me the ways of life; thou shalt make me full of joy with thy countenance.– Acts 2:28
In the neighborhood where I enjoy taking a walk there is a section of sidewalk that never ceases to grab my attention, so much so, that I often find myself intentionally walking in that direction just so I can take this most interesting little path.
It is a small stretch of sidewalk, a little less than a block long. If you approach it going westward you will find a very tall neatly trimmed hedge of bushes backed by a concrete wall which appears to be guarding the entire right side of the way. This hedge comes right up to the sidewalk which always gives me an odd overwhelming sense of security.
The feeling is just the opposite on the other side of this interesting path. Yes, on the left side of the sidewalk you will find a grassy area that extends over to a main side road through the neighborhood. In the midst of that grassy area is a steep slop down into a ditch that gradually curves back up to the road- it reminds me of a little grassy creek bed and there have even been times following a lot of rain that it truly has resembled such.
As I walk this path I always, without fail, think of my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. He is the Only way to the Father; the Only truth; the Only life as we read in John 14:6. He also tells us in His Holy Word, the Bible, that the way to life is narrow and that we will face temptations, tribulations, sufferings, and sorrows. He Himself faced every one of these things; He tells us to be of good courage because He overcame them all! Yes! He overcame the world and He is here- ever present, ever willing, ever able to help us do the same. He warns us to remain on watch; to be obedient to His commands; and to have faith in God. He tells us in Matthew 7 that the path to life is narrow- and few there be that find it.
As I walk this little path I think of all of these words spoken by Jesus- these warnings, these reassurances! I often find myself saying to Him as I prayerfully move forward, “Lord, why could you not just put a hedge on both sides of the way? That way I would not risk being steered into a ditch? I would be safely hewed in and would make it through that straight gate to you in glory without fail!” How easy, and glorious, would that be I think! Smooth sailing all the way!
Then one day as I was walking along this peculiar little path I saw a large tree limb laying across the way. As I got closer I began to examine how I might navigate around it and continue on the way. I would not be able to step or jump over it because it was too broad with too many limbs protruding from it’s core. I looked to the right side of the path and saw that the limb was pressing against the hedge. I looked to the left side and saw that the limb was laying across the grass but not so far that I could not maneuver around it carefully. Seeing no other way around, I slowly made my way onto the grass making sure to plant me feet precisely with each step, especially when the ground started to slop down into the ditch, as I prayed for a safe return to the narrow path. I made my way around the limb and back onto the sidewalk with much relief, all while giving thanks to God.
It was then that it dawned on me that if the path had been secured on both sides by the stately hedge found now only on the right side, I would not have been able to get around the limb that blocked my way. I would have had to turn around and gone back. I would have had to of found another way. Therein would the problem lay-that there is no other way to Heaven, to the Father, except this one narrow way!
So it is in our walk with the Lord. He does not safely hew us in on both sides as we walk the narrow way so that we can find the way around the obstacles, temptations, trails, and tribulations that will come at us while we seek Him and His face. These things serve to sanctify us into His likeness; to give us empathy, long-suffering, and patience towards others as we serve them according to His example; and they lead us to put our full reliance on Him in all things as we pray for His guidance, strength, and will to be done.
Yes, but why must there be ditch on the left side? Why not just a nice flat grassy area that helps us move easily around obstacles with no fear of falling into a pit? The same would apply! It often takes us slipping slowly into ditch or even falling hard and fast to the soggy bottom to realize that we Need God! To realize that without Him we will find ourselves sinking in mire in a pit that we cannot climb out of on our own. It is in these “ditch moments” that we find ourselves abandoned by those who we never thought would forsake us; we find ourselves hopeless, helpless, scared, and lost; we find ourselves looking up as we realize that there is nothing below that can help us get out. It is in these “ditch moments” of looking up that we often feel the presence of God for the first time. A time we will never forget no matter how brief.
An overwhelming joy fills us when we behold the countenance of His face- when we see that beautiful right hand stretched out to us- bidding us to come to Him- the Only hand that is able, willing, ready to pull us out of the ditch and place our feet on the path of life- for the first time, for the fifth time, for the seventieth times seventh time. Jesus! Jesus, the only way, the only truth, the only life!