Keith was raised in the Ozarks, born in a farmhouse in the back country, down a rocky lane and across from a cow field lined with wild blackberries, a steep hill rising straight from the back porch. As a boy he walked the woods, his feet naturally finding the easy way among all the stones, limbs, and golf ball sized black walnut hulls and acorns as he gazed upward into the trees. If he doesn’t actively think about what he is doing, his feet still do that from long ingrained habit. He’s always embarrassed and aggravated with himself when he realizes what he’s done to me, and he appreciates the nudges when I find myself knee high in briars.
Life is a little like that. Most of us live everyday muddling through as best we can, oblivious to anything but our own cares, our own needs, trying to make things run as smoothly as possible. What makes “a bad day” for us? When things don’t go smoothly—a malfunctioning coffee pot, a stubborn zipper, a flat tire on the way to work, a traffic jam that makes us late when we had left in plenty of time, a spouse or toddler who had the ill grace to wake up in as foul a temper as we did.
It takes active thought to control your selfish impulses and consider others. It takes effort to accomplish the difficult—self-control, self-improvement, compassion for people who, like us, don’t deserve it. But that’s exactly what our Lord expects of us. This is exactly the example he left us.
Even under a weight of responsibility none of us can imagine, he gave his disciples his careful attention and encouragement. Even in tension-filled situations he showed compassion to both the sick and the sinner. Even in tremendous pain and weakness, he remembered his mother and forgave the pawns of a murderous mob.
If Jesus had looked for the smooth way, none of us would ever have hope of one. But if all we look for now is the smooth way, we may as well enjoy it while we can. It’s the only smooth way we will ever have.
Enter in by the narrow gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leads to destruction, and many are they that enter in thereby. For narrow is the gate, and straitened the way, that leads unto life, and few are they that find it. Matt 7:13,14.