Which road are you on? The straightaway is a wide, smooth road with gentle curves and gradual slopes. Multitudes are travelling down this road, pedal to the metal, hellbent on getting to . . . well — hell. Where else would you expect to get to on this road?
Jesus tells us that a lot of people travelling this road actually do expect to arrive at a different destination. At the judgement day they will complain insistently that a terrible mistake has been made. Indeed there has been a terrible mistake, but the Judge is not the one who has made it.
English can be a little confusing at times. The Bible does not speak of a straight and narrow way — it speaks of a strait gate and a narrow way. Strait means narrow, tight, restricted. We cannot get through that strait gate with our burden of unresolved sin, our list of accomplishments, our list of grievances. A good thing, too, as the weight of those things would be an insupportable burden on the narrow way.
Many people have looked at that way and decided that it’s not going to get them anywhere that they want to go. This is a fatal mistake, for this is the way that leads to the destination which every heart longs for.
The road to heaven is strait, or narrow, but it is not straight. We will get glimpses of our destination, but it will often be hid from view. We can never know what will be around the next corner in our life. We don’t need to; we have Someone to guide us: “And thine ears shall hear a word behind thee, saying, This is the way, walk ye in it, when ye turn to the right hand, and when ye turn to the left” (Isaiah 30.21).
There is a passage in Isaiah that, at first glance, appears to contradict what I am saying here: “Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain” (Isaiah 40:4). If one reads the whole passage from verse three to verse five, and then Luke 3:4-6 where it is quoted to describe the ministry of John the Baptist, it takes on a different meaning. God is calling people to prepare the way of the Lord, by untangling the crooked and perverse ways in their heart, by allowing their pride to be abased and by allowing faith in God to grow to fill the emptiness in their heart.
Perhaps we could make a secondary application of this verse in Isaiah by saying that the mountain doesn’t seem as high after we have climbed it with God’s help, and the valley not so deep after we have climbed out of it with God’s help. Nevertheless, there are mountains and valleys on the narrow way, and some of them are formidable.
The strait way is not easy on the flesh. But there are companions on this way to help us through the rough spots, and opportunities for us to help others who may be faltering. There is time to stop and smell the roses — and to admire the orioles who come to admire the roses (one was at our rose bush as I was writing this).
What choice will you make? If you choose the road, you must accept the destination to which it leads. If you choose the destination, you must accept the road that will get you there.