I have not written in some time, since I have been under considerable stress in my personal life. I don't write much when I'm in the middle of my own crises. I have no energy for it, nor do I feel I have anything to offer. But recently, a thought did occur to me which I felt I ought to share.
One of the many things which has troubled me lately was the cry of the non-prodigal son, the one who said, "these many years do I serve thee...yet thou never gavest me a kid." It is not that I feel I have never transgressed, because I know I have. Nor that I deserve blessings, because I know I don't. But it is hard to see how far off the tracks my life has gone. Tracks that I followed only because the Lord asked it of me, and not because I wanted those tracks at the time.
I am surrounded with people who have the life I was taught to accept (and even desire.) But it is a life I'm forever barred from, all because someone I trusted decided to exploit that trust to its fullest extent. I have fought, not only to become strong, but to keep that strength from making me hard. It is a daily battle, sometimes harder than others, but something I have to fight every day. And sometimes I lose.
I do not understand why I can't seem to catch a break. I just need a year or so of equilibrium, of rest, a time when I know that my kids are safe, that I am safe, and that I can heal a little.
But I was looking up a scriptural reference, and ran into something that I think applies.
I have known for a long time that "strait" didn't mean "straight," it meant "narrow." What I didn't realize is that "strait" can also mean "close, strict, or rigorous," "causing distress," or "limited as to means and resources" and as a noun, "a situation characterized by trouble or difficulty."*
Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat:
Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.
Therefore, a "strait" way is a "difficult" way, a way without resources or means to navigate. This, my distant friends, is exactly what my life has become. I no longer have any expectation of either salvation nor exaltation. Hope, perhaps, but no assumption that if I do XYZ, I'll get ABC blessings. Because while blessings may be predicated upon obedience when received, they are not an effect of that obedience.
Trying until you can't try any more, being so continually exhausted that you can't muster the energy to do for yourself, let alone anyone else, spending nights weeping into your pillow because you don't know what more you could have done, none of these things mean that you will be blessed for your obedience.
But I know in whom I have trusted. I can't choose to do anything less than fight, because I promised I would and because there is truly no other acceptable choice for me. If I fail, I will fail having given it my all. Even if my all is, as usual, not enough. I don't know if the "kid" will ever come for me, but that is not why I serve.
This path of discipleship is not meant to be easy or broad. It is hard. It is hard to the point that you have neither resource nor means to escape. Submitting to a Being who is only believed in and not truly known is beyond difficult when life becomes beyond one's ability to cope. People like to say that He won't give us more than we can bear, but it is not true. He gives people more than they can bear every single day.
The real promise is that He has the means and the resources that we don't. There were two fruits: one sweet and one bitter. The fruit of the tree of knowledge was sweet. But the fruit of the tree of life is bitter. If the cup Christ drank from was a "bitter cup," then so is the cup His disciples must taste.
But in the end, all that the Father has will be ours. Even if we can't see how or why. Even if we know in our hearts that we can never deserve or earn it. It is not bought with pain and suffering. It is not bought with obedience nor sacrifice. It is "without money, and without price."
And someday, we will sing together and shout for joy when mourning will be done away and we see the salvation of our God.
*Definitions paraphrased from Google definition and Merriam-Webster
Image: "The Return of the Prodigal Son" by Rembrandt