The Narrow Way

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As parents, we worry about the people who have influence over our children’s lives. We hope that people come alongside our kids and help them stay on the straight and narrow, for the Bible tells us that wide is the road that leads to destruction, but narrow is the way that leads to life (Matthew 7:13-14). We don’t, as a species, tend to choose the narrow way. I mean if I am hiking in the woods and I am faced with a choice between a wider, well-worn path and a little used narrow path, I’m going to go wide every time. I need those people in my life that tell me to choose the narrow way. I need convincing that the narrow way is the better choice. Left to my own devices, I may not choose so well. Left to my own, I might choose the path of least resistance. I might choose easy.

But as followers of Christ, we are called to a different path. The path that we are called to looks a bit precarious. It’s not well traveled and so at times it’s hard to even know for sure that it’s a path at all. And there’s not too many others to keep us company on the narrow way. That very fact causes us to doubt it from time to time. I mean, how can this be the right way if so few people are choosing it? If this was truly better, wouldn’t more people be here? Wouldn’t it be better marked with clearer signage and places to rest, and why isn’t there are water fountain somewhere? This path is really hard, and right about now you wish you had chosen different shoes.

Just about the time you think you’ll go back to the trail head and take the other way, you see someone on up ahead of you. Or perhaps someone comes up beside you and you make your way down the path for a while together. After a time, something becomes evident about the people on this narrow way. Their focus is less on the difficulties of the path they are traveling and more on the destination up ahead. They are driven by something that has less to do with the narrow way they are traveling and more to do with the purpose of the journey. They speak words of encouragement and life as they walk this way with you. They help you take steps and climb higher. They offer a hand up and a boost when the way gets steep. And when your feet step to the right or left of the path, they come alongside you and help you see where you have taken a wrong turn and show you the way again.

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Unfortunately, it’s not enough to set your kids off on the narrow way and expect that there will be no more trouble for them. The wide road still calls. It continues to tempt with its broad, level, well-worn surface. Those who travel that way shout invitations to those traversing the narrow way. By all earthly measures and to the naked eye, the wide way does seem pretty ideal. It has everything a path needs to be a successful path… except that it eventually dumps its followers out into their own destruction.

It would be easier if the wide road would just disappear from view entirely, but then, how would anyone from that road ever see that there is another way? We cannot ever completely separate ourselves from those who have chosen the wide road. We were all once traveling the wide road, until someone shouted to us from the narrow way, and encouraged us to give it a try. The same has to be true for our kids. We cannot, nor should not, keep them from exposure to the wide road. Our peace of mind, then, has to be in their connections on the narrow road.

From among the 12 disciples, Jesus carefully selected four. With those four, he spent extra time and invested himself. They were tight… and they had chosen the narrow way. As a matter of fact, they were the first to ever walk it. Jesus reached out constantly to those traveling the wide road, but His closest contacts where those who had chosen differently. His closest friends had chosen the narrow way. As usual, Jesus is the example.

Kids are kids and most will chose the path of least resistance when left to their own… even really “good” kids. The narrow way doesn’t get easy, but the burden gets lighter when they travel it with a buddy. It’s often been said of kids, “Show me their friends and I’ll show you their future.” Mind with whom your kids spend time. Never give up, never give in… because the lure of the wide road will not. Trust me, as a parent, I know it gets exhausting, but we really can’t afford to turn a blind eye… and hope for the best. Hope is not a strategy!

We have to press in, ask questions, hold them accountable, and make the hard choices when it comes to who has influence in their lives. I wish it was easy… but the narrow way seldom is.

Covenant Marriage, Singular Faith

“He has remembered His covenant forever, The word which He commanded to a thousand generations…” Psalm 105:8

Marriage is a relationship like none other. When it is entered into as it was designed, it is a bond. When things are bound together, the intention is that they stay that way for good. It’s like when we choose a glue… we look for one that provides a good bond. We want those pieces to stick together as if they had always been stuck together, and we want that bond to stand the test of time, use, etc. In the Old Testament, you can read about such bonds. They were referred to as covenants. To break a covenant with someone was a serious, serious matter. So for most Christians, we view marriage as less like a contract and more like the Old Testament covenants.

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A contract has more to do with protection and mistrust. There are exit clauses and loop holes. The law of our land provides that marriage is a legal contract. This is a connection, not a bond. Connections can be broken. I lose my wifi connection at work all the time.

There are actually three states in the US that provide a Marriage Covenant for people. People who choose this route do so understanding that to exit from it takes a good bit more effort. When you look into the scriptures you will see that God made covenants with His people, not contracts. You will find no mention of God entering into a contract within scripture.

So I say all that to say this. Matthew and I have a marriage covenant, not a marriage contract. Now, we were married in Alabama. Alabama is not one of the three states that offers the actual marriage covenant. But in our hearts, we don’t care about the paper contract, we have a covenant… a bond not easily broken. We are bound together legally, physically, and spiritually. Matthew is responsible to lead me spiritually, and I am responsible to let him, bless his heart. As head of our household, he is responsible to make sure that I am growing spiritually and leading our children to do the same. I feel that very strong spiritual bond with him, and it has great influence over me.

But here’s the thing. While I have a covenant marriage with Matthew, I also have a singular faith. Matthew is responsible for fostering in me a desire to grow deeper in my relationship with Christ, but ultimately, I am responsible for that relationship. Matthew will be held accountable for how he did his part, but I will stand alone before God one day to give an accounting for what I alone did with Jesus.

For years, I blended the two so closely that I failed to really take proper responsibility for my growing faith. If Matthew was growing, I was growing. If he hit a plateau, I just hung out there with him until I got the signal that we were moving forward again. At that point, I’d gather our stuff and plod on. I did this to the point that I would even mirror his moods. If Matthew was having a tough day, so was I. I would look to him to gauge my own feelings. This was not Matthew’s fault, it was just that I felt so closely bound to him, spiritually, that I had begun to put more into that relationship than into my own, separate relationship with Jesus.

And here’s the kicker… when I began to see this area of my life differently, an amazing thing happened. My relationship with Jesus grew, and my relationship with Matthew got even better. If Matthew is having a bad day, he doesn’t need me to mirror that, he needs me to help him find joy again. If I join Matthew on his spiritual plateaus, then he’s likely to hang out there longer. I mean, he does enjoy my company!

This shift in perspective does not mean that I am then leading him… not at all. It means that I encourage him, support him, love him and pray for him. I don’t just sit and idly wait. I love his company, too, but I like it much better when we are marching forward together.

As a Christian wife, it would be easy for me to find my identity in that position, and I have often done that. But in truth, my identity is found in Christ alone and in who He says I am. When I find my worth there, then my value as a wife increases profoundly. I am so thankful for these two, very related, yet distinct positions that I hold. And I love it so much when, about my spiritual growth, Matthew says, “You go do what you need to do.”