The best any of us can do when it comes to understanding God more deeply is seek out metaphors and images that somehow give us a glimpse into the mystery in which we share. We are surrounded by them each and every day if we allow ourselves even moments to be aware of the eternal presence shaping our own journey, breaking in, in one way or another. It’s hard, at times, when you find yourself in paradise, not to miss the moments and signs that are pointing us to a deeper way of life. It can be something as simple as walking along the beach or watching a sunrise or sunset to even some of the great obstacles we face in trying to pass through in this life.
As I was out walking along the beach yesterday there was one such sign that came in the form of an obstacle. In parts, the beach is quite narrow right now and you have to practically walk over people in order to keep moving in some direction. Yet, as you walk, there comes a natural obstacle that would make most pause, at the least, or simply turn around because of the difficulty in passing through. There is a narrow path in which you can only pass through in single file. If you’re on the other side it’s best to wait for others to pass. It’s that narrow of a space, which added with rock formation and water breaking in through that formation, it can easily throw anyone off balance before passing through to the other side.
Yet, if you handle it carefully and with some awareness, you can pass through the narrow straight, which opens up into what appears to be the paradise desired of endless beach, few people, and a sense of stillness that all but makes the memory of the journey thus far all but forgotten. Now I did happen to notice a woman that thought she’d outsmart it and walk around the narrow straight. She was going to avoid it all together and somehow go around it to pass through but quickly realized that was nearly impossible, climbing over slippery and jagged rock, of course with phone and other items in hand, before turning back because it was too hard.
Is it not true of our spiritual lives as well? We too are often left with such a choice as to how we are going to move forward. It appears that the options are endless, and God knows, we’ll try every one of them before attempting the narrow straight. We think and convince ourselves that somehow we can outsmart the process and avoid the seeming danger of passing through the most narrow of spots along the journey. We turn around and settle for a life that we’ve outgrown, that feels crowded and yet lifeless all for the fact that we fear passing through. We try to avoid that passing and attempt every other option, no matter how dangerous, all but to avoid the one, narrow straight that promises us an openness into what it is we’ve desired. Maybe it’s why it appears, with the naked eye, to have so few people on the other side because so few of us are willing to take the risk in passing through. Yet, what lies beyond transcends words and is simply something to be experienced for our own selves. Otherwise, all we can do is listen in on a story and experience that our hearts long for and desire and yet we continue to allow ourselves to get in the way of possibility all because we convinced ourselves that there should be an easier way to all of it or if I wait long enough I’ll find the way to outsmart it all. We’ll be waiting a long while if we live our lives that way, lacking the depth and meaning we desire.
Now, it’s not that we toss out that life once we pass through. We still look behind at times to learn and heal the narrowest parts of our lives that at time continue to plague our hearts. They remain; but when we allow ourselves the opportunity and invitation to pass through the narrowest of straights, time and again, we are afforded the opportunity to let go and to be healed of the memories that often stand as our greatest obstacle of passing through that space. It is the fear that has become attached to our memories that hold us back. More often than not, the fear of being hurt or rejected. Sure, we may get hurt passing through, but it’s the only way that promises life and the paradise desired by our hearts and souls.
All any of us can do is seek out these metaphors and images. We can study theology for years on end, and that’s a good thing. But in the end, when it comes to deepening a relationship with God, it’s the images that find a way to transform our hearts or at minimum open us up toward greater possibility and to the impossible that we tend to avoid. All too often we settle for being trapped, confined, and allowing our hearts to be overcrowded with a life that once was and setting up shop there thinking we have it all. At some point, though, we start to get the nudge. It may take months and years, but eventually cracks begin to break us open enough to realize that narrow straight is unlike the rest and what’s on the other side is something that we desire all the more. It takes great courage to live now and not hung up in some past life or anxious about what’s next. In the great moments of passing through that narrow straight, there’s no space for fear or worry, simply about being. It isn’t until finally braving that space that we learn we need not fear it each time we encounter it because once we encounter the spaciousness of the paradise beyond there’s no turning back. It’s images like this that speak to us but most importantly, transform our hearts into knowing and understanding the primal message of the sacred word, fear not.