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March 6, 2019
The Trailhead and the Gate
There is a state park in northeast Washington called Frater Lake. There are many hikes in the park, but they all start at the trailhead. There is a sign showing a map of the hike, how much elevation you will climb, how difficult it is, what type of wildlife you may encounter, and what to do if that wildlife happens to be a bear. But hikes start at the trailhead.
We also start our spiritual journey at a trailhead. At this point, we haven’t decided to follow Jesus, but there is something drawing us to the trailhead and challenging us to make the spiritual journey.
If you follow those urgings at Frater Lake, you eventually come to a split in the path with two gates, one barring each of the paths. The easier path is to the right, which goes around Frater Lake with its two beaver huts. It is shorter, you don’t get lost because you never lose sight of the lake, but it merely loops around and you end up back at the trailhead. Not much of a hike and hardly worth the effort.
The more difficult path is to the left. It is dangerous because there are black, brown, and grizzly bears in the area, moose and mountain lions, and it is much longer, 4.3 miles with a higher climb in elevation. So why do we take the left fork? Because 3.6 miles down the path is Coyote Rock, one of our favorite places to go. It is a huge rock with a nice view of the valley and a great place to eat lunch.
We pick the path that takes us to where we want to go; we pick the path that takes us to our desired destination.
But first, before we can start the hike, we have to go through one of the two gates. Jesus says, “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and easy is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But narrow is the gate and difficult is the path that leads to life, and only a few find it” (Matthew 7:13-14).
Metaphorically, I like to think my gate was made of heavy cut timber and weathered by the years, with a small, narrow dirt trail on the other side leading up into the mountains. There was a post on either side. The door for the gate was hinged on the left post. The post on the right had a latch for securing the gate shut. On the right side of the door, itself was a large bronze handle for opening it. Next to the gate, I imagine there was a lamppost with a light brightly shining.
But it is a narrow gate, the type you go through one person at a time. There was no way to get around the gate; you have to go through it or you can’t hike the path beyond it and you’ll never get to Coyote Rock. But when you walked through the narrow gate, that’s when you start your spiritual journey with Jesus.
Does this describe the beginning of your journey? What was your trailhead, and what brought you there? What enticed you to think about making the journey? Or have you, in fact, gone through the gate?
- In the following four devotionals we will be describing the different parts of the gate, but how would you describe your gate?
- What did it look like when you walked through it, if in fact you have.
- What are you traveling toward? Welcome to the journey.
You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand (Psalm 16:11).