Last night, I prayed for a woman who said she needed more energy. Instead of using the "fill her fuel tank, Lord" blessing metaphor, I prayed this way: "May every fiber of your being move in the same direction. No more scattered goals. No more divided heart. You have the energy in you to do everything with ease. It's just been divided lately." During prayer, she gave feedback that this was exactly what she needed.
Jesus taught this principle: “Take the narrow path. It leads to life. The wide one leads to loss and more loss” (my paraphrasing). Go narrow to go big. It seems contradictory. But so did many of the teachings of Jesus. Upside down was right side up. And all along we thought the horse was the cart...
I find that every number of years I come to this place where I must choose one thing. I must go through one door. I can’t go through two. It’s always so difficult for me because I am a man who likes to entertain many options and ideas. I foster dreams. In fact, I am practically a dream machine. I get more great ideas than I know what to do with. So, I write them down and store them in Evernote. Sometimes, I pray to release them back into the wild, freeing them to find another master who may have the resources and time to care for them and to grow them to maturity. I believe with all my heart that ideas, dreams and solutions are super abundant. They float around us all the time, like radio waves from another realm. Those who pause to listen hard enough can pick up their frequency and scribble down bits and pieces of their transmission. This is good news for those who need a breakthrough in their work or creativity. But, for people like me, it can also turn into a bad habit.
Outside the doors of commitment, you are free to entertain all sorts of dreams and visions. You admire their beauty and light and color. Like butterflies flitting from flower to flower, you only get to see them clearly for brief moments when they land. You may even be lucky enough to catch a few. You may collect them and pin them down, so you can look at them at any time to remind you of that experience of beauty and inspiration. But they’re never the same dead. And night always falls and beckons us to come home; and work always calls us to leave the flit and flutter of dreamland to something deeper—to make a difference in the world, to leave a legacy, to build a house, to take one of those crystalline dreams of perfection out of our imagination and to shove it into the soil and do the work necessary to make that seed grow into a reality.
The only way to do this is to ruthlessly go narrow. You must walk through one door. You cannot stay outside the doors forever. In trying to keep your options open, you are keeping yourself closed off from all of them. Real life waits for you on the other side of that door, whichever one you choose, and is infinitely more satisfying than the perfect dreams you try to keep alive on the outside. Look around you, the butterflies are all dying. Take one, only one, and go through that narrow door of commitment.
I am old enough now to have been through a few doors. And as difficult as going narrow always is, there is always reward on the other side. And more options. And more butterflies. In fact, most of the time, I am able to see that the doors I didn’t go through also led to the same wide open space. But the only way to get into the wide open space on the other side of the wall was to go through a door. On the outside, I wanted to become an engineer, learn a new language, travel the world, start a business, write a book, tell people about Jesus, get married and have children. But I had to go through doors, one door at a time, to get to do all of those things. If I tried to hold on to all of them on the outside of the wall, I never would have been able to get through the door. Dreams are like bulky clothes and backpacks. We have to shed them at regular intervals to get through narrow spaces that Kingdom-living requires of us. Sometimes, we are able to pick them up again on the other side. But the process of shedding feels like death. It feels like humiliation to strip down to nothing but your skin…”This is all I am. Me. I have nothing else that gives me identity or significance.” It’s the way to get to the next season, the next chapter, the next level. It’s the way each of us leaves this world: Naked, Purified.
Purification rites throughout history and religions have echoed this return to Level 0. At it’s core, this is what baptism signifies. I enter the waters with nothing—no qualifications, no possessions—no remnant of my old life. And I emerge with nothing. But this new nothing is substantial. It’s something. Because it’s a fresh nothing. It’s a blank slate nothing. It’s a clean start nothing. It’s deep breath and a clear sky sort of nothing. And it’s wonderful. You can return to all your old things, but they don’t stick to you anymore, because the narrow way, the baptismal waters, the stripping down, removed your stickiness. Something primal has been settled and now you can rule your resources, knowing ultimately that none of them are as significant or valuable as your very self…or every person you meet today.
Go there. Take off those things that have become burdens over time. You didn’t intend for those dreams and joys and pleasures to become chains, but somehow they have. Go narrow. Be baptized again. Be renewed in the awareness that you are infinitely more amazing than the things you do or the things you use. Walk through that one door. And who knows? Perhaps all your old dreams that you thought you were leaving behind will find ways of showing up again on the other side in ways you could have never imagined.