“Narrow Gates or Broad Roads: We’re Always on One or the Other!”
Welcome back to The Training Table! Pull up a chair for the thought-fully prepared feast for today. And allow me to say how much I appreciate all of the conversation around the table as well: When folks are truly engaged in the meaningful, the sometimes difficult, and the deep issues of life, it’s the most gratifying thing in the world… at least for me… and apparently for lots of you as well!
Let me also remind myself and any readers that any and all sins, poor judgment, or sad consequences I might refer to in The Training Table are first and foremost owned by ME: I have likely committed acts of sinful thinking and behavior far more devious and destructive than the majority of my readers. (You in the minority know who you are! Just kidding…) I not only fully own the sins I know and do not know, but I fully embrace the forgiveness and salvation of and from my sins—by the promises of God and the blood atonement of Jesus Christ as my Savior first… and the Lord of my sinful yet saved and sanctified life.
In the vein of the “meaningful, difficult, and deep”, please allow me to take a step back from the planned menu for today, “Narrow Gates or Broad Roads: We’re Always on One or the Other!” The gratifying fare I want to offer you is in the same realm as I had planned—choosing the best pathways for the Christian journey—but is taking a slight detour.
The Broad Road of Our Era Is Challenging… But Be Encouraged!
Please consider the following appetizer-quote for our first course today. In the span of the last few days, catalyzed mostly by “the Tucson tragedy”, I have been particularly aware of a very worrisome cultural phenomenon—that has been growing for some time from a seedling to a Redwood in our day. I’ve touched on this many times before; but it’s well worth saying it again, and through a different lens:
“Thinkers from the time of Socrates to our own day have believed that the unexamined life is not worth living. Today’s unique challenge is to lead an examined life in an unexamining age. The sheer pace and pressure of our modern lives can’t easily crowd out time for reflection. To make matters worse, we live in a war zone against independent thinking. Television jingles, advertising hype, political soundbites, and dumbed-down discourse of all kinds assault an individual’s ability to think for him or herself… more than ever. Carefully considered conclusions about life and the best way to live it are too often the casualties” (Os Guinness, The Trinity Forum—emphasis added).
When I re-read this in the past forty-eight hours, it practically took my breath away! I believe this statement is not only truer than it ever has been in all of history, but also represents a strategic triumph for The Deceiver, Satan, and those same powers set against God described as “the world (secular thinking), and the flesh (sins of our fallen self)”. (Not, by any stretch, to imply God is unaware, caught off guard, or out-maneuvered in any way: His mercy intends that the increasingly large void in the unexamined life might get our attention… so we might cry out to God and a community of faith… and seek, only by God’s grace, to fill the void with HIM. The devil can do NOTHING without God’s super-intending permission.)
Now, in the context of by far the lion’s share of the reporting about “the Tucson tragedy”, the assertion, “Carefully considered conclusions about life and the best way to live it are too often the casualties” has saddened and angered me on many occasions:
Very little in life today seems “carefully considered” anymore. Much of our culture’s addiction to living the comfy and opportunistic life, blinded to reality and consequences of any kind, and completely unrepentant when words and actions from all sides unreservedly mow down people like Gatlin Guns (carefully chosen because of the willful and “hands-on” involvement of the shooter)—E.g., not “politically-motivated hate speech” but “hateful words, ideologies, and practices set against God” and put in place as laws, prohibitions against being fully human, and the “freedoms” to be in bondage to ego, lust, and power.
The heart of the matter is always the heart: Vaclav Havel said, “The tragedy of modern man is not that he knows less and less about the meaning of his own life, but that not knowing bothers him less and less” (Letters to Olga).
As heart-shattering as it is to lose a loved one under any circumstances, it makes the causalities of “the Tucson tragedy” pale by comparison to “the casualties of an unexamining age”.
Are There Anymore Jared Loughner’s Out There?
There’s a very good… a most definite… likelihood that there are many more “Jared Loughner’s” in our society, our neighborhood, our churches, our local schools, and our own homes. But, do we have to wait until another “time bomb of the heart” goes off to address the likelihood… the surety… that the very youth in the realms of each of our own areas of concern and influence has been betrayed and abandoned on virtually every level of life—and will act out in self- and/or other-destruction sooner or later? It’s not about if, but when… And it’s happening all around us right now!
As rigorously as anyone I’ve heard so far who has tried to get to some of the more important and deeper lessons surrounding “the Tucson tragedy”, it’s seems like a surface skimmer on a sludge pond the size of Lake Michigan. Sorry, “premeditated”, “forewarnings of potential violence”, “mental illness”, “potentially schizophrenic” doesn’t cut it for me. Sure, it’s better than the unspeakable and immediate politicizing of the tragedy… but we MUST go much, much deeper still!
By only addressing the depth of the sort like “mental illness” or “schizophrenia”, or some like-disorder, will likely end in simplistic, surface solutions like, “whatever you do, keep your eye on your kid’s meds!” (Please excuse any apparently uncaring words concerning the legitimate and hopefully short-term use of complementary—medical and counseling—medications.)
Consider if you will one or all the “comparative tragedies” of millions of “Jareds”… being similar-age, similar-affected, similar-wounded, similar-thinking, similar-alone-isolated, similar-self-centered-entitled-narcissistic, similar-shunned, similar-angry-rightfully-enraged—by how they have been lied to and betrayed by the structures designed to guide and protect them, similar-fear-filled in existential numbness, similar-plotting a revenge, similar-recalcitrant-exaggeratedly unconventional, similar-ridiculed and called-out by people around them, similar-dark-sometimes-“Goth” sometimes Preppy sometimes in-between—it’s the heart not the hide, similar-lost in a world of virtual relationships—often understandably petrified or betrayed by the real thing, similar-“avatar lives”—living in compartmentalized areas of the heart and emotions, similar-“hooking-up”, similar-unaware of how anything historical relates to the present or the future, similar-free to cursingly condemn anything foreign or repugnant to his or her worldview, similar-anti-parent-authority-establishment, similar-ignored and treated at best as an inconvenience or at worst as completely anonymous… Until the ability to contain all this pent-up chaos goes “BANG!” and makes the nightly news. But how many tragedies will it take for us to consider the root causes? To examine Who made the heart, and how its designed to thrive?
Overwhelmed? Maybe even insulted by my making an exaggerated and unfair comparison or hypothesis? Does any handful of these issues constitute the fact that there are far more at-risk young people today (per capita) than at any time in history?
And, even if just ONE issue was true, and a FEW DOZEN souls were lost, does anyone foolishly believe God grades us on a curve in this crucial arena?
“Jesus said, If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea. Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to stumble! Such things must come, but woe to the person through whom they come” (Matthew 18:6-7)!
It’s quite obvious that there was very little commentary of compassion about “the Tucson tragedy” that began, “Jared, we’re so sorry your heart and emotions are so very troubled by the chaos and despair of our culture today.”
Can we continue to stand idle and refuse to ask the deeper questions? To refuse to choose “the narrow gate”? To refuse to just say “NO!” to the unexamined life, the unexamined age we live in”?
Jared… Johnny, Joan, Jimmy, Judy… Where Oh Where Have We Led You Astray?
Is Jared Loughner, in one sense, “just an example” (he’s obviously much, much more…) of our youth being set “free” to roam a culture—so unapologetically murderous to the heart—like abandoned animals… and then blamed for acting like one?
Is it possible… that there are more “Jared Loughner’s” out there who have been weaned on the pabulum of an abortion culture (please know I do not say this lightly… there’s much hidden pain here… and I have my own story… forgiveness and redemption is real) where life, even in the most innocent and “safe” form, is so expendable, unworthy, and tenuous?
Might… the decades of teaching that human being’s are nothing more than a slightly higher form of primordial goop have an impact on one’s conscience about taking a life… or living a meaningful life?
Could… the cowardice of male leadership to hide behind free speech in order to promote the most harmful and egregious plight of our day—pornography—have an impact on the sacredness of… ANYTHING?
Could…, after so forthrightly and justifiably (in our foolish wisdom) having removed the Bible from the public square (especially in the school), we now have the natural, organic consequences of cultural anarchy—as so much of the populace now lives like heart-less, misunderstood Frankenstein monsters pieced together by “the neck-bolts of enlightenment thinking”, “the heart valves of emotional voyeurism”, and “the animation of technopathologicbusyness”? What has replaced the Owner’s Manual for a Human Being… and a Human Doing?
Could… so many, many examples of the ways we have forgotten, or have so very little awareness of, or respect for, the PAST have twisted our youth’s thinking about not knowing where they have come from.. or having any idea where they are going?
The confusion and ambivalence is too much for one’s heart and emotions to take!
The Call for Every Generation and Every Day God Ordains We Live: Choose the Narrow Gate!
“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it” (Matthew 7:13-14; See also: Luke 13:24; Deuteronomy 30:19; Hebrews 10; Philippians 2:1-18).
Oswald Chambers said, “If you make a moral struggle (“the narrow gate”) and gain a moral victory, you will be a benefit to ALL you come across, WHEREAS if you do not struggle (“the broad road”) you act as a moral pollutant to ALL you come across” (Place Help).
The choice is clear. Please stand up and be counted as a foe in every way of “the unexamined life and age” we live in. Please choose this day (Dt. 30) whether you will examine all events in your life at a much, much deeper level… or continue to live the unexamined life… on the broad road that always leads to destruction.
Consider, re-consider how well you know God, know yourself, and know how you’re called to be a redemptive force in this world… because we are all called, and we will not live remotely happy lives until we take up the call: Christians are saved, to serve—beginning by living the fully-examined and Christ-exemplifying life!
Please reach out to help someone, especially a younger person, a peer, or a person in a leadership role RIGHT WHERE GOD HAS PRESENTLY PLANTED YOU, to help him or her see the deeper issues of this life—and help form a platform uniquely ordained for EACH OF THEM to jump into God’s story, His adventure, and The Journey… with both feet and all their heart.