The Narrow Gate
I’ve been writing off and on lately about surrendering our lives to God. Today I am thinking about the “narrow gate,” which stands between belief in God and the experience of God. Jesus taught about the narrow gate: “small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”
On one side of the gate we live in the “real world” and perhaps as Christians believing what we’ve been taught about God, from what we learned as children, what the preacher has said, what learned Biblical scholars have said about God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit. We are also laden with all that the culture has taught us about life and what the priorities are and how we Americans are to be in this world. We also have the culture of any given church to contend with; much of the culture of a church is man-made, not coming from the Gospel.
So on the culture/human side of the gate is quite a bit of baggage, some of it great and some of it burdensome, but we haven’t sorted out yet what is true and what isn’t for ourselves. So we approach this gate, called by God to surrender our lives. Now what is the gate like that you face? Is it solid? Or can you catch a glimpse of the world ahead? Is it dark or light? Is it high or low? The answers to these questions might reveal your openness to the surrender being proposed.
Do you believe your beliefs? In other words, will you act on what you believe? Will you step through that gate, knowing that you have to shed what is false, what is unnecessary, what is problematic for you, what isn’t congruent with your true, created self? On the other side of the gate is freedom, true freedom to love, to be who you were created to be. Of course it takes quite a long process to get to that freedom, but it is well worth the time and effort.
The narrow gate is the point of surrender of your life to God. Surrender declares that you will put God first and follow where he leads. It involves all of you—heart, mind, soul and body.
Surrender means to give up all the false notions about me, life and God in favor of the truth, in favor of how God thinks about his creation. It means to give up the “American way” of doing life. It means to give up much of what we were taught. It means to give up our own image of ourselves. And it means to place our whole trust and love in God, not in the beliefs of the church or the version of Christianity to which we subscribe. The goal is to live in the kingdom, the one body, the one church of Jesus Christ. The goal is to live totally in the mind of Christ.
So, when we come to the moment of surrender which is a decision plus a discernible shift within ourselves, I believe God is the one who makes it happen. We may want to surrender our lives to God, but our egos cannot surrender. They draw everything to their own way of being and doing, certainly not to God. So the moment of the surrender requires setting the ego aside—again, a task for God.
I don’t know what anyone else’s experience of surrender has been, but I will share mine. In the early 80’s I had wanted for several years to surrender my life to God, but no matter how hard I tried, I just couldn’t. On an airplane on the way back from visiting family with my husband and three young kids, I hear a voice within me saying, “Write!” and I thought(like Bill Cosby playing Noah), “Right!’ But over the next few weeks, that voice inside me grew stronger and more frequent until I just had to write—on any scrap of paper I could find or in a notebook. One thing I wrote about was the courage to be me. And as I, that is my ego, was so distracted by getting stuff down on paper, I surrendered my life to God.
For three days I walked on air, in such a joyful state, until I came crashing down to earth with this thought: “Thou shalt have no other Gods before me.” For the next three weeks I was preoccupied with writing down all the gods I put before God—from other people’s opinion of me and sticking to the cultural ways to candy(I have an addiction to sugar) and pages and pages more of just stuff. One could say that the next thirty years have been an exercise in letting go of all these “gods.” I called my list “gobs of gods.”
If you’d like to share your experience of surrendering your life to God, I’d love to read about it in the comments or messages. I’m sure my readers would be fascinated as well by our different experiences. It’s possible that I might refer to your contribution in future writings, but I would be identifying the writer by his or her initials.
So, when we’ve walked through the narrow gate, surrendered our lives to God, on the other side of the gate we find there is so much to let go of, to unlearn, to embrace a new way of being, to give up control of everything, to learn how to truly love and serve. It’s as if our lives are beginning all over again and we’re the newborn baby again who has to learn to sit up, then crawl, then walk and run. We have a new paradigm of what works and what doesn’t to comprehend. There is a whole new world and God’s thinking about it and about us for us to adopt. There is God to get to know, to experience how he reveals himself to each of us.
We’re no longer just proclaiming what we believe, but trying to really live it, to have God’s love shine through us, to have integrity where we are the same on the inside as on the outside. And as we let go of the “ungodly” things, we become more and more oriented to our true selves as we were created to be and to doing what we are hearing from God. We build up a body of experience of how God is with us. We correct our beliefs to agree with our experience. We learn to take our cues from God.
We can enter the narrow gate with all these burdens as long as we take that first step of putting God first. We can trust that God will then lead us where he wants us to go, meanwhile transforming all that is problematic within us. I call the period after surrender the 10,000 surrenders. For that is what has happened to me: I’ve had to surrender my preferences, my assumptions, my expectations in favor of what is before me in my life. What I am facing might be my husband dying, an infant son on life support for a week, moving three times in two years and countless smaller “crises” in my life, like the car in front of me going too slowly or someone not showing up to meet me.
The sooner we can practice doing each of these 10,000 surrenders that we face daily, the sooner we are back on God’s program, the less anxiety and anger we feel. This is our training ground for letting God lead us for the rest of our lives.
And then….we are lighter, more integrated, more true to ourselves and to God. We are freer to be who we are. We find our way, with God’s help, to the purpose for our lives. And we are finally learning how to love as God loves…indiscriminantly, universally, without judgment and with embrace. And as we learn how to love, we are gifted with the fruit of the Spirit that Paul writes of in Galatians 5, so that we can truly love God, ourselves and others and live in the kingdom.
All this happens because of that first surrender, entering through the narrow gate. Without that we are hit and miss with God. We don’t follow through. We don’t have a commitment to be faithful. We hold most of ourselves back from God. With surrender we begin to experience life fully, because there is so much more of us that we can give to life and so much more we can receive. The walls between us and God no longer exist. There is just me and what I was created to do and God. There is no more truncated relationship, now it’s a full and meaningful one, a co-creative one.
 Matthew 7:13-4
Questions to ponder over the week: Have I walked through that Narrow Gate? How am I doing with the 10,000 other surrenders? How dedicated am I to the task? How long does it take me to recognize the obstacle before me and my own resistance to it? How long does it take me to give up my way, my will?
Blessing for the Week: May we all walk through the Narrow Gate, surrendering our lives to God. May we approach the 10,000 surrenders with openness and strength. May we live a life of love in with and for God.
If you’d like to see more of By the Waters, check these out:
–There’s a new video up on YouTube: “The First Four Commandments ”youtube.com/user/patsadams
–Check out my twitter feed at twitter.com/BTWwithPatAdams
–Check out the “Offerings” on the website which links to a CD of guided meditations