“I had more freedom now and I had to feel my way into it, see which barriers had fallen and which still were up… I couldn’t be satisfied until I knew the boundaries and where the openings were, if any.” Wendell Berry, Jayber Crow, c. 2000
When Jesus said, “Enter through the narrow gate, for wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction…But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it,” I think He meant the words more as a protection than anything else. A protection and a promise. (Matthew 7:13,14)
I am very easily distracted, especially by other folks’ words. If there are conversations going on around me while I’m trying to listen to a friend, I have a hard time focusing. And when I have too many words—virtual or on paper, it’s almost as difficult to concentrate or hear. (I recently donated two enormous shopping bags of books to Goodwill because it was too “noisy” in my living room.)
In the wake of the recent Presidential election, I almost let the weight of All the Words crush me. Everyone had an opinion or argument, even fellow believers. Especially fellow believers.
Besides being easily distracted, I have a knack for people-pleasing and being easily influenced. I began engaging in online conversations just to have my say or prove my point. In the process, I almost forgot who I was and what God has called me to.
Of course, our enemy would like nothing better than for us to engage in conversations that add no fruit to our lives or further God’s kingdom. Distractions can be helpful in accomplishing this. Those verbal pathways don’t have to be evil or dangerous, but if they’re not part of my journey, I don’t need to be going there.
So, an epiphany occurred: perhaps I need to marshal my forces, circle the wagons, so to speak, around what I know is my world right now. Not the world at large, but the world at hand. My wagon-circling involved tightening the borders of social media around me, being intentional about the companions I have on this journey, making my world smaller, on purpose. Not because I disapprove of others’ dialogues but because I know the distractions will keep me unfruitful in the days I have. Sixty plus years behind me are a megaphone reminding me to be purposeful in the decades I ahead.
What’s in my hand to do may be different than yours. I can’t tell you what you “should” be doing, or reading or saying, for that matter, only God can tell you that. I do know for me, writing in this space is a gift God has allowed me to share; I feel the most like me when I invest in that. Beginning an online group for faith-based writers is another place to bury my days. Ministering to my church family and community in this coming season is also a privilege and joy.Talking with neighbors, refugees, people of color, friends who may not confess the same faith I do, it’s all part of that world at hand.
Maybe Jesus made such a big deal about how we walk “through that narrow gate” not because the world is a terrible, horrible, no good very bad place but because the path He’s set before us is ours alone to walk.
Let’s not get distracted.