August 26, 2007

Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I tell you, will attempt to enter but will not be strong enough. Ė Luke 13: 24
There will always be those who want into Godís kingdom on their own terms. They want to stride into the feast because of who they know rather than making themselves into who they really are. Unfortunately, the door does not open because we are well connected. The Lord recognizes only those who are His own, who are like Him. Entering begins with striving to be Christ-like.
However, it is not easy to center our heart on love of God & neighbor. It is a lifelong discipline. Most people do not take it seriously & do not engage in it. But for those who do, they will learn the great lesson of grace: what begins in striving is accomplished in surrender to Godís will.
On the one hand, spiritual striving means confronting our vices: too many possessions, too many toys, too many sins that are the result of a toxic pride. There is a Charlie Brown cartoon that shows him going skiing. He put on his bulky clothes, fur hat, large shoes & heavy gloves. He then strapped his snow shoes across his front with his skis & poles on his back. He hung his camera & first aid kit over his coat. Finally, he was all ready. The only problem was with all that ďstuffĒ on him, he couldnít get through the door. Our vices are like that.
On the other hand, there is something equally serious & less obvious: It is our virtues that can keep us from entering the narrow gate as well. Paula DíArcy wrote this about her maternal grandmother:
When she died in her 83rd year, & the family met to capture her essence for the ministerís benefit, I was stunned with an awareness that we barely knew her at all. We knew, of course, names, dates & places. We knew amusing anecdotes & significant moments. But we didnít know her. She hadnít let us in. No one could say what her true feelings, needs & loves were.
That impacted me like a blow to my person. To have lived & died & to never have been deeply known. To have always been proper & right, but to never have shared your dreams, hopes & hurts, your acquired wisdom.
This lady will have a hard time getting through the gate with all the gifts that were not given, all the virtues not shared, all the stories untold. All these things will still be with here, making her too bulky to enter the narrow gate. Do we have gifts that weíve never shared because we are so self-absorbed in our defects? Are our gifts left silent inside us, the gifts that will keep us from getting through the narrow gate? Our unused virtues can be just as big an impediment as our all too used vices.
Loving God & neighbor means being unshackled from our ego, & that can be traumatic when it isnít tedious. It means learning that generosity isnít just about money. It means being receptive to Godís grace & letting Him expand our heart & soul until they are big enough to encompass others, even those we dislike. AMEN!