I once chaperoned the kindergarten field trip to the bowling alley.
It was one of the scariest events I’ve ever attended.
Picture this: 62 sock-footed children on slippery lanes, gripping cannon balls — er, I mean bowling balls — above unprotected toes and heads. A few of them ran so far down the bowling lanes with their weapons, that I thought we might just discover children coming back by way of the ball-return.
One child (mine) stood poised, squinting at the ten pins with great intensity. Then, with all the precision of a bat in daylight, she let go of her ball on the back-swing, sending it into a crowd of miniature onlookers.
With deft accuracy, I caught the ball midair. Oof.
Thankfully, the bowling-alley operators had installed rubber bumpers on both sides of each lane, to guard the gutters. That was our one saving grace.
I’ve made use of bumpers like that on my own slippery path.
“But small is the gate and narrow the road
that leads to life, and only a few find it.”
— Matthew 7:14
I could be prone to question my salvation, if I read those verses all alone, out of context while ignoring the story of exile and redemption that starts in Genesis and ends in Revelation.
For the record: I have found the narrow path. But my walk of faith looks more like a zig-zagging stumble than a neat traipse down the center.
I know how I am. And I know WHO I am.
I am both saint and sinner — on the path, but prone to slide off the edges with the smallest push of pride, envy or temptation.
I belong to Jesus, but I’m also a carrier of a fatal disease: a fallen human nature.
Today, I am wearing the T-shirt given to me by a friend. It reads: “I am the wretch the song refers to.”
I could look at my life one of two ways. I’m either:
A) A wretch who is getting more sinful.
B) A wretch who is becoming ever more aware of her own depravity.
I pray it’s B. I pray I’m not getting worse, just more aware.
I am, indeed, a wretch. And I don’t say that as a way to kick myself or wallow in some kind of religious self-pity.
I confess who I am, and acknowledge my need for daily heart surgery. And by His grace, I receive it.
How often in my life have I thought that I could turn a corner and somehow have “arrived” in my faith? Too many to count. But this faith we share is not a once-and-done proposition.We are growing in Christ, and shrinking in self.
And yet, I see the sin that marks my daily path. I’m aware of the abject failure I would be, if I had to somehow earn my place on this narrow walk. And when I turn my eyes to look back and see the footprints I’ve left behind me, I see a crooked footpath reminiscent of a kindergartner-aimed bowling ball.
It cost God plenty to keep me on this path. I didn’t get here by my own accord. If my flesh had its way, I’d be a gutter ball.
Instead, I’m drawn to my knees again by the stunning reminder that Jesus Christ gave up Heaven to pay my debt and buy me a place in Heaven.
I don’t know what’s around the bend, or how far off-center I’ll stray before I get there. I don’t know how rocky the road is up ahead.
I only know this: I cannot count on my own righteousness to take the next step.
But I am going to do my level-best to stay in the center. Not because it earns me a place in the Father’s House. But because it honors the One who bought me my spot.
Heavenly Father, Thank you for loving me, even me. I’m coming Home, and I don’t know if I’ll get there in two months or fifty-two years. But I’m thankful to my core that the path is paved with grace. Because if it wasn’t, my knees would be a lot more skinned up than they already are.
In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Would you share your thoughts here in community? Over on the Getting Down With Jesus Facebook page, we’ve been discussing what it means to stay on the path.
We welcome your insights here, in the comment box, or over on Facebook.
Photos: From recent trip to Renaissance Festival in Minnesota.