Thirty years ago we didn’t have a gate, or a fence to attach it to. The titles on the land parcels back here off the highway were not free and clear, except for ours, so our boys grew up wandering over twenty acres in every direction. They swam in the run and climbed trees in the groves that now stand on other properties. They hunted and explored, and we cut our Christmas trees from the uninhabited woods around us.
Then the titles were cleared up and people began buying and moving in. Suddenly we had to deal with neighboring cows breaking through their fences and wandering our way to find good grass to eat, with pot-bellied pigs rooting in our garden, with donkeys braying loudly outside our windows, and packs of stray dogs terrorizing ours. So we scraped up the money we had been saving over the years and put in a fence, with the gate at the road we had driven down long before anyone even knew there was a road there. Now we can protect what is ours from wandering livestock, and the lock on the chain is especially nice during political season.
The gate is a two-banger. The larger portion is a standard cow panel, 16 feet wide. But that isn’t enough space for a tractor pulling a cultivator and sprayer, which an old friend used to plow and treat our garden once a year. So right next to the larger gate is a smaller one that adds 4 feet and just enough room for the equipment to come through.
Jesus had some things to say about wide gates and narrow gates. One thing I have noticed about wider gates. It isn’t just that more people can get through them. It’s that they can get through quickly. Narrow gates stay that way because they are seldom used, and when you see one, the very smallness of it makes you hang back and consider. Maybe you’ll poke your head through trying to make out what’s down there, but it still takes considerable thought before you will go down a place that not only few go, but they don’t go quickly.
Wide gates on the other hand? People go through them in a headlong rush simply because everyone else does. Someone famous wears a certain color and before two weeks have passed everyone is wearing it. A celebrity eats at a certain restaurant and the next week there is a line a mile long. Someone posts a video on facebook and it goes “viral.” As soon as anything gets approval from a popular source, people can’t get enough fast enough. It’s a mania, a craze. Would you look at those words a minute? No thinking at all involved in those words, unless you classify insanity as a thought process. Jesus, on the other hand, expects his disciples to be thinkers.
Star Trek always starts with a prologue ending in these words: to boldly go where no one has gone before. Isn’t that what Christianity is supposed to be? Except for this one, critical, factor: someone has gone before us. He tells us that yes, it’s safe, at least in an eternal sense, and yes, you can do it too. The gate may be narrow and seldom entered, but that is what makes us special, something besides robots in a cookie cutter world.
Today take a moment to think before you choose. A quiet stroll with the Lord in a narrow shady lane may be just what your soul needs.
“Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few. Matt 7:13-14.