Is the Path Straight and Narrow?
Have you ever waited in a cue for a ride at a theme park? It can be frustrating when progress – defined as getting closer to the front of the line – seems to take turns that lead you further away from the goal.
Same can be true of our spiritual life, as progress – defined as more fully living in our identity in Christ – is sometimes marked by taking steps backward. (That is the point of praying while walking a prayer labyrinth like the one pictured above, the path God has you on is not a straight one.)
The process of developing awareness of what we cling to for a false sense of wholeness apart from God is filled with failures and set backs. It is part of developing perseverance, but a part that tends to be unwelcome.
When we make one step forward, we do not like to experience making two steps backward.
All of us crave certainty. This has caused us to assume a linear approach to following Christ. Every day in Christ, we assume, is going to be a day of growth – of hearing the voice of the Father get louder and louder beckoning us towards Him.
Part of this assumption is that our struggles will all be external, and we ignore the ways of the false self that we have lived in for so long.
But there is so much to learn about what tempts us and the patterns of the old nature when we pay heed to the two steps back. They are as much part of the journey as is every victory we experience.
Here is a truism about our selfish nature: we want the follow Christ daily without the deny your self daily.
If the path is narrow, we want it to be straight as well. That way we can know we are making progress.
But, here is the truism about discipleship: there is no following Christ without denying our self. And the heart – the seat of our identity – is deceitful above all things. A component of the deceit is that if we are following Christ ‘correctly’, then every day will be lived better than the last.
Following Christ ‘correctly’ means developing a deeper and deeper understanding of what you are to deny. How deep the desire is within us to have wholeness without God.
And that means that the path we are on, the narrow path of following Christ, is going to have turns and detours. Places where we have to backtrack. Being steadfast through these times represent just as much progress, and are just as important (if not more so), as the times the path is straight.
When was the last time your path of following Christ was not straight? What realizations about your self did you come to as a result?
I work with followers of Christ to energize discipleship, improve relationships, decrease anxiety and facilitate leadership development. I am a certified coach specializing in pastoral leadership, relationships, discipleship, life transitions, and Christian identity. Also, I am the author of the forthcoming book Discovering Your Root: Developing Your Identity in Christ.
Services I offer are one-on-one coaching, group coaching, speaking at organizations/churches, leadership workshops, and church retreats. For more info, click here to contact me.