“Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it. Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thorn bushes or figs from thistles? Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore by their fruits you will know them. Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter into the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father in heaven.” Matthew 7:13-21
Narrow gate, difficult path
It’s easy to understand the meaning of “narrow gate.”. “A narrow gate is harder to pass through than one that is wide, and only a few people can go through a narrow gate at once. In saying “difficult is the way which leads to life,” Jesus was explaining how hard being a Christian really is.
“Difficult” is from the Greek word thlibo, which means: “To press (as grapes), press hard upon; a compressed way; narrow straitened, contracted” (New Testament Greek Lexicon, http://www.bibletstudytools.com).
They are many illustrations in this message of Jesus, but with a common theme of dedication, choice, and the need to live a way of life that promotes love in action. That includes our own sense of ourselves and our flaws, and our willingness to cast out that part of our character that needs to go. This is through a process of discipline, growth and change – and surpassing even that to a more compassionate person rather than that of a more worldly notion of justice – to a person who is merciful and tolerant and patient. Not an easy task! But His words here indicate that the choice IS ours.
A misconception is that we must begin by knocking ourselves down, criticizing ourselves and dissecting our flaws. Jesus came not to knock down humanity but to build it up. We begin to work on ourselves in the spiritually effective ways of loving ourselves, instead of hating ourselves.
When we have the proper relationship with ourselves, then we can have wonderful relationships with others.
Mark 12:30,31 states, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. And the second is like, namely this, You shall love your neighbor AS YOURSELF. There is no other commandment greater than these.
We can only the love another to the degree that we love ourselves.
God is love; we are created by love, in love, to express love. We are a child of God and a child of love. It is a responsibility of each one of us as we mature in our spirituality to express unconditional love. This is active worship in us. I don’t know if you are aware of it or not, but we are co-creating this service together. It is IN God’s love.
When we focus our energy on the person who is speaking and join in that prayerful consciousness, something greater than both comes out. That is what I pray we will do everyday. Focus on God’s love in becoming a part of the whole.
Have you noticed how wonderfully peaceful our lives can be in one moment, and then in the next second something happens that disturbs us and all of a sudden we are very much into our humanity of nervousness and fearful thinking.
There are stages of growth in relationships. Mastering them is the Ph.D.of spirituality. There is no judgment of good or bad about what stage we may identify with as we go through this lesson today. We simply identify where we are.
The word “co-dependency” is a buzz-word which came about a several years ago.
It has to do with describing a dependency relationship. A co-dependent relationship is when I depend on another person for my worth, to make me feel better, to tell me I’m okay. We do all kinds of things in order to get what we want from the other person.
How much more important it is to be dependent on God. Human dependency, for the most part, is quite unconscious. It is not usually deliberately done, even though there have been those times when we certainly have done it consciously. What we need to realize fully that God is with us all the time. We lose our need to have control over others, to feel powerful ourselves, when we know our oneness with God.
With the hand we were dealt, we can either use it as a way to keep on doing things the way we have always done them, or we can use it as the very stepping stone into the kingdom of heaven beginning right here on earth. The choice is always ours.
Let’s allow it to simply be a stage of growth that has come to pass, and let it pass.
Now here is an example of what we may have done in the past or may still be doing. Eventually, we notice something that we didn’t before; we notice there is something about this person that bothers us, but we decide not to say anything because it doesn’t bother us that much. After a while, we see something else that is a little like the last relationship we had. After a while we think, “I thought I got rid of that difficulty the last time, but here he/she is again with a different face.”
We say to ourselves, “Why is this happening to me again?” It comes to the point,
however, that we come up with the unfortunate recognition that THE COMMON
DEMONINATOR is us. We are the ones who are going to have to do something
different if there is going to be any kind of change in our relationship so it will be something we call healthy.
An independent time is not really a stage of growth. It is more of a step sideways. An independent is often just a co-dependent who is single. When we get tired of going back from co-dependent to independent, when we have been in that pattern long enough, we say “There’s got to be a better way.”
I believe that a relationship can offer us the very key (the narrow gate) to the kingdom of God that we all say we are seeking, – to the kingdom of power, wisdom, understanding, harmony, and peace. But this is not without a price. Here is the cost:
First love yourself as God loves you; then love others from that point of spiritual awareness. You can’t really experience something that isn’t already within you; you must experience that love of and for yourself.
It begins with a willingness to love and accept ourselves just the way we are. Are we willing to look at ourself with all our wonderfulness and all our less-than wonderfulness, with all our mistake-making, and all of the negative traits that are a part of our humanity, and then love and accept all those things about “you just the way you are?”
Until we accept it, we are stuck with it. Until we are okay with where we are, we cannot move higher. It is our very acceptance that allows us to change the things we need to change in life. We need to look at ourselves openly and honestly-and that means opening our hearts to ourselves and seeing what we see, not judging it, but being gentle with ourselves-and pour out the love of God that we are toward our own humanity.
The greatest power in all the universe is God’s love coming through YOU. It seems like we have a tendency to want to love everyone BUT US. In fact, we’re so busy fixing, changing, and loving everyone else that we sometimes neglect the fact that we exist. What we really are doing is trying to compensate for the whole world by not allowing the love of God within us to be expressed toward ourselves.
Ask God to teach you how to love yourself.
You will have to accept the fact that what you knew about unconditional love was
simply not enough. You knew what you knew, but it wasn’t enough. This is an open door to the presence of God. This is an open door through which God rushes in to give us the next step we are to take in consciousness (whatever that might be) at a level we can understand perfectly.
But it isn’t just prayer, or meditation, or forgiveness that is required of us; there is another part. What do we do when the emotions are running high? What do we do when everything is falling apart, we’re feeling unworthy, rejected, and depressed, and all sorts of negative things are going on?
God is in the midst of our very being. Every cloud contains a silver lining (trite saying but true). The power that is in the midst of fear.. is that not God? Could it be the calming voice of God saying, “It’s time to go higher?” Could it be the voice of God saying, “Let’s move up because you are now ready for your next level of understanding, consciousness, and wisdom?” Are you ready to go through that “narrow gate?”
Say, “Okay, God. Let’s go forward. I’m ready to move out of the darkness into Your light.”
That means we can’t shut-down. That means that the fear (or whatever it is we are experiencing) is going to be the very catalyst that is going to get us moving through this. Or we can do the same thing we may have always done – use it as the millstone and keep the status quo so we don’t have to change at all. We can repeat the same pattern with predictability, we can say once again, “Why is this happening to me again?”
It takes courage. But we have the courage from God. We have the strength from God. We have wisdom from God. Are we willing to use it to move forward through what we have to face?
It’s like giving birth to a child. It hurts a lot when it comes through, but when the temporary pain is gone it, is the most wonderful thing of all. When we walk through our own fears, it’s the same way. When we walk through them instead of shutting down, we experience the presence of God because just on the other side we are removing the curtain, between the limited, the painful, the misunderstandings, into the light of clarity, joy, understanding, and love.
When we can unconditionally honor and love ourselves just the way we are – and that doesn’t mean to stay there – this allows us to change towards the better. We are no longer wasting our energy by judging and wishing things were different. We’re using ALL the God-given energy now to move on through it and go higher in our lives.
Until we can unconditionally love ourselves, until we can have a relationship with ourselves, it is impossible to have a full relationship with someone else. It will never be safe.
In an inter-dependent relationship, we come together as two whole people-not as two halves trying to make a whole. We come together, not because we need to, but because we want to share something. The joy of a relationship that is inter-dependent is that we come together to create something which hasn’t been created before. Now this relationship can be between a man and woman or two friends or any two people who have moved into this phase. I have a friend in the Dallas area whom I feel is a wonderful friend, and I view us as having an inter-dependent relationship that I cherish.
Jesus said, “When two or three are gathered together in My name, there am I in the midst of them.” We cannot know the power and the presence of Christ until we are willing to love fully, beginning with ourselves, and then reaching out to others.
We come together as two whole people, and then we create something greater than ourselves. Through our combined energy, we bring forth the presence of the Christ in a dimension we have never experienced by ourselves. This is our purpose.
Our souls are ready for this. It isn’t by chance that you are sitting here. This is a Divine appointment. You’ve chosen the narrow gate, and it is time. It has nothing to do with age. It has to do with a willingness to know God, to know and experience God’s love, to know yourself, to honor your humanity, and to step out and say, “I’m willing to be counted as one that loves fully.”
Each and every one of us is going to make a difference in this world. Everything we do becomes a light that shines out to other souls. There are a whole lot of people in this world who are waiting for you, and for me, to get our act together.
Let’s accept the challenge of change, of knowing ourselves, of loving humanity-to know the love of God IN ourselves and extend it to all people everywhere. The love of God must come through you, as you.
God bless you and me!