We, in our natural human pride, think to ourselves, "How hard can it be? I mean, He said that you simply don't turn to the right or to the left!" Seriously? But, really, I catch myself saying, or at least thinking, stuff that is that simplistic. Then the next thing I know I find myself in another "ditch" - you know, those places we tend to get stuck up in, that - you guessed it - lay to the right or to the left of the "Narrow Path" that leads to righteousness!
How the flesh hates that narrow path! It loves the broad, glamorous, Easy Street, where the world rushes by, and it is always finding a side road from the Narrow Way to sneak off into that "main road". It is always trying to "go with the flow"! However, for those of us committed to the ways of righteousness we usually wind up finding a ditch instead of the main road. This is probably a good thing, but always a hard thing. It may be a good thing, because it delays our getting into that "broad way" that Yeshua insists leads to destruction. But it is hard because it is so deceptive. It feels like a place of safety, but it is out of the center of His will.
There are many ditches, but their purpose is always the same - to keep us in suspended animation. To keep us from going headlong into the world, perhaps, but still, at the same time, as I have said they manage to keep us from G-d's best for us! I have come to believe that they are self-made "bunkers" that we dive into when our courage fails us, we imagine that they are there to "save our lives". We may even create them ourselves! But they end up stealing our lives from us, or causing us to waste them, which is the same thing. Yeshua plainly stated that when we seek to save our lives we lose them! But we find this hard to grasp, since they give us a false sense of security. After all, truly following that narrow, "limiting, radical, flesh-choking, fun-sucking", seemingly confining, "Path of Life", which is ultimately Yeshua Himself, takes considerable Chutzpah! And more patience than we even wanted to cultivate!
These self-made ditches may take various forms, depending on which side of the path they may lay. If on the right, then they will take on a decidedly religious tone. They will take the commandments even further than what G-d recommended, and make the limitations even more severe. After all, "better safe than sorry", is our adage. The problem with that thinking is that it still insinuates that we know better than G-d, and that He can't be trusted! Not so good! It still puts us in control, so we feel safer, but nothing could be further from the truth! We simply can not protect ourselves from all the forces that actually threaten us! Only He can do that. Control is the fleshly substitute for Authority and Dominion, the real power that G-d meant us to have, which is submitted and accountable to G-d and His Word. It looks similar but is totally different in construction and in end results. Control is about us, Authority is about Him! Control builds our Kingdom, Authority and dominion is used to build His! Control answers to no one, Authority is given by G-d and subject to His conditions.
If they fall on the left of the Path, however, then the ditches tend to be a mirage of wide-open spaces, and limitless "choices". Of course the chains that are attached to those perceived "choices" are hidden from our sight. Any perceived "choices" that run contrary to His will are only gateways to prison cells - fleshly choices always lead to bondage - addictive behaviors, unhealthy social patterns and spiritual strongholds. But again, are happy as long as we believe that we are "choosing"! The bottom line is that we want control! The cry of the flesh is "Give me Liberty or give me death!"; usually the two come hand in hand! There is Liberty and Life only in the Anointed One! But submission to Him and His Word of instruction is hard for us because we want the ultimate say so over our lives! The irony is that He has given us that "control", in the form of Spiritual Authority! He simply asks that we wisely entrust Him with it, and stay accountable to Him in it, so that He can help us get what we really want! Which is our place in His Kingdom!
So, the ditches, once again, can be called "religious bondage or rank heathenism" - (which is "liberal bondage", ironic but not as much of an oxymoron as it first appears), or they can be called by a host of other names - "Right wing conservatism or the left wing liberalism", "legalism or licentiousness", "self-made independence" - whether "religious or philosophical" matters not, both will keep us from a healthy dependence on G-d and a healthy interdependence on each other! They can also be seen as "all work or all play", "OCD or Total Irresponsibility"! We humans tend toward extremes! We "naturally" gravitate toward "all or nothing" thinking! We want it all our way all of the time, or we want nothing to do with any of it!
But that is not how G-d designed us to work best. He designed us to work when He decreed that we should work, and to rest when He decreed we should rest. He designed us to eat certain things and leave other things alone. He designed us to discern Good from Evil, Holy from Profane, and to keep them separated! He designed us to think for ourselves and yet trust Him ultimately. He designed us with a lot of ironic mysteries and seeming contradictions which can only be worked out by His Spirit, which can only be found in His Word, and which can only be sorted out by His wisdom. The flesh will never get it; it will still be standing around scratching its head long after Yeshua has come and gotten those who did tune in! It is written that those who endure to the end will be saved. That doesn't exactly sound like the way of least resistance does it? It doesn't sound like the Broad and Easy street. It is not for the faint of heart, nor the slow of mind!
The narrow path requires all the fruit of the Spirit, all the gifts of the Spirit and all the Faith and Courage that we can muster! Thankfully, we are not required to come up with all of that on our own! But we are required to submit to it when He leads us to it. We are required to don the armor at the proper times, to know our weapons of warfare and be on the ready at all times. Also we are to have ready the wedding garments so that we can change into those when appropriate, and to know Him well enough to know the difference! That is indeed a tall order for mere humans. But those who have received the gift of His Spirit are no longer mere humans. The work of transformation has begun. We can not change ourselves from mortal to immortal, that is His work. But we are expected to facilitate His work by studying His Word, obeying what we see there with His help, and to walk in every bit of light which He shines on that narrow path!
We are expected to keep returning to the middle each time we find ourselves having strayed to a ditch! That is called Teshuvah - repentance! And it is daily work for us. We are so prone to wander to one side or to the other. Some days it would look like such a zig-zag that we could be arrested for a DUI! We got that thing all over the Path! But as long as we are seeking Him it is written that we will find Him, and when we find Him, we find ourselves in the middle where we belong! Listen, we are mad indeed to ever try to separate Him from His stuff! We can not hope to ever get it right without Him.
Today, press into Him, seek His presence, find out where He is hanging out and hang out with Him, He is always walking straight down the middle, and holding His hand is the only truly safe place to be. As the Psalmist said, "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil, for You Are with me...." Most days that would describe where we are right now I think - the valley of the shadow.... But there is no need to fear the storm if He is in the boat, there is no need to fear what lurks in the shadow, and there is no need to fear losing the Path if we are holding tight to His hand.
"Straight is the Path and Narrow the Way, and few there be that find it.", He warns us. He also wondered aloud, "When the son of man comes, will He find faith on the Earth?" He also laid it out for us when He said that, "...He seeks those who will worship Him in Spirit and in Truth...". Implying that they work best together! If separated they can form ditches in and of themselves! I have seen them! They are found in perfect combination in the Straight and Narrow Way! Straight down the middle!
That is where hope, and love and good are found. That is where the Light shines the brightest and the world looks the least threatening! That is where true safety, healing and well-being thrive. That is where His Salvation - His Shalom - His "Wholeness, Peace, Nothing-missing, Nothing-broken" - exists! That is where we walk in Authority and Dominion! That is where the perfect Will of the Father is found and done! That is where Yeshua is walking today, and every day, will we take the time to find Him, and join Him there?
Shalom! Wishing you a happy journey, straight down the middle! ~ Selah