Wednesday, July 19, 2006

The other side of the narrow way

After I got to thinking about my last post on the narrow way, I got to thinking that it was incomplete. Without a doubt, I believe that finding the narrow way is more about finding the path that, for you, leads to balance, though not in the yin-yang sense. But the Christian life isn't just about a single individual finding the narrow way. The Christian life is also about communities of hope, healing, and salvation.

As I think about the interaction between the two - being a single individual and being in community - I find myself thinking a lot about the writings of Soren Kierkegaard. Kierkegaard lived in the mid 1800's and said (among lots of other things) that truth is only helpful if it is internalized in such a way that it becomes an integral part of the living and thinking of the single individual. In this way, truth is subjectivity. Truth must be turned inward and made your own.

This has special implications for the narrow way, and it's other side. The narrow way is what happens when the truth of the infinite God starts to color our days and become internalized into the single individual. The narrow way happens when we try to figure out how to make truth mean something to us, rather than it just being something we are taught, or something "Baptists believe" (instead of "I believe"). But the other side of the narrow way has to do with the teleological purpose of embarking upon the narrow way. (Teleological means end goal or end purpose. It's a cool word - you should look it up if you don't already know what it means.)

We don't just travel the narrow way for our own benefit, as single individuals who are searching
for truth. That might be why we start on the narrow way, but at some point we look around and realize that we need support through the ambiguity and pain we experience as we internalize truth. We look around and realize that other people are on a journey, too, and that our experience might be able to help them on their way.

At some point, we gather together to take care of each other. We come together, realizing that we have all been wounded as we've walked upon this razor's edge called the narrow way, and want to help each other. We want to reach out to those who have fallen off of the path, on one side or the other. We do it because we understand the hardships of the narrow way - we know how easy it is to get off track and end up in a place where you don't want to be. And even though some of us are in a place we hate, we aren't able to admit it, but instead desperately wish someone would break in with a message of hope to guide us onto the path of real life.

Some of us have never been on that path before. Others of us have been on the path before, but have forgotten how to get back on it. The other side of the narrow way is something I can't describe. It's not community - that's actually part of the narrow way. The other side of the narrow way is not a "way" at all. The other side of the narrow way is what happens when people go anywhere and everywhere precisely because they're not really going anywhere at all. It's what happens when people try things just to feel alive, or try to fit in, or try to be something that we're not all for the sake of finally becoming something. But the more people follow this road to nowhere, the more we realize how far into despair we are, the more we realize that everwhere we go we are a visitor, in search of a home. We realize that we might never reach a place where we're satisified, never reach a place where we are loved in such a way that we don't constantly have to seek out more love, never reach a place where we can let go and be ourselves in our pursuit of good things because the truth of the infinite God has never started to become OURS, a part of us.

Teleologically, we, as Christians, embark upon this narrow way so that we can offer up some hope against the other side of the narrow way. We come together and form communities of believers in order to help each other on the journey, and in order to show others how to let the journey begin. These communities are sacrimental - they are something that brings others to a point where they are willing to start internalizing truth in such a way that it can actually make a difference in their life. As outsiders look upon the sacrimental community they should see the difference the narrow way has made in our lives - how internalizing truth has changed everything, and as a result want to try it for themselves. They're not going anywhere anyway. And as the truth hits them, as it becomes their own, one piece at a time, they begin to understand the value of the narrow way.

Why do we do it? Why do I do it? I do it because it was done for me. I do it because there was a dark time in my life - not so long ago - when I found myself in a place I couldn't get out of, a place that I didn't want to be. No one was there to help me - no one was there to discover the pain I kept hidden. But instead as I screamed at God in bitterness I realized that there was someone who came to show me how to get out of the quagmire. He came and gave everything he had - he allowed himself to be crushed for my "transgressions" - for the way I've wondered off the path. And as he hung on a tree as the reward for showing us all the narrow way, he screamed out in despair to his God, too. I do it because somewhere inside me I think I understand part of the pain he experienced while traveling the narrow way. I do it because I want to reach out and help that savior of the world as he cries out in despair. I do it because as I have internalized the truth of the infinite God, I have come to understand he wants me to look into the face of people at church, at work, at school, in the mall, and see the face of despair looking for a savior. They're not looking for the exact same path that I am on, but each and every one of them is looking to leave the the other side of the narrow way. They're looking to find the same truths that I've found, and embark upon the narrow way of making those truths their own.


Amy said...

You should write a book. You should write several books. Even when your posts are longer than a paragraph or two I read every word. Love ya Ben.

Lori said...

Profound. Thank you.