I took the road less traveled, and it made all the difference. – Robert Frost
In the gospels, Jesus spoke of the broad and narrow gates. He said that many would enter the broad gate, and it would lead to destruction.
For most of my life, I interpreted this verse in the typical Evangelical way – accepting Jesus as your Lord and Savior is the narrow gate, but not accepting him was the broad gate leading straight to the pit of hell. This verse was often used as proof that there would probably be a minority of all humankind that actually ended up with God in heaven at the end.
I’ve pretty much left that interpretation behind, especially since so much of what Jesus talked about focused on this life now, as well as after death. I now think Jesus was talking much more about the process of dying to self and letting go of ego.
Dying to ourselves, and learning to live sacrificial lives marked by love, compassion, and justice is really hard work. I think we could probably suggest that the majority of the world isn’t focused on such a task, and maybe they don’t even know that this task is paramount for an abundant life. Rather, the masses live life chugging down the wide road of false self driven-ness, struggling to find happiness and purpose in the midst of trying to deal with wounds, hurts, and fears. This is not a statement of judgment, but rather one of “I’ve been there.”
Many of the mystics talk about the concept of waking up – this is becoming aware of what life is really about and what it takes to get into a space of real life. Their ideas often sound very similar to Jesus in John 3 where he talks to Nicodemus about being born again. It is about completely changing the filters through which we view life, restacking our priorities about what is important, and becoming other-centered.
This other path, the path of least resistance that seems easier, the one that is fueled by ego and self centered-ness, leads to destruction in that people do not discover who they truly are and thus are kept captive to illusions of reality that bring no real long lasting happiness or satisfaction or hope.
Waking up is hard to do first because it is just alot of work to die to oneself, and second because most of us don’t know that we asleep in the first place. This is one instance where I can say I’m grateful for my mental illness. Before you start throwing things at your computer for such heresy, let me explain. I first started seeking treatment simply as pain management. I just wanted my pain to stop and for life to seem even a smidgen brighter or more hopeful.
Then, lo and behold, a few years into counseling I finally took the time to read The Road Less Traveled by M. Scott Peck. This was a life changer for me because I suddenly realized that I didn’t just have to endure life being dragged along by my neuroses and diagnoses. I did in fact have some control to change things, to “get a grip” spiritually so to speak, and I finally understood that maturity, not pain management is the point.
I slowly, but surely, began a process of waking up. Though I decided to follow Jesus when I was six and was dedicated to him from that point on, this moment in my late 20s is what I truly mark as my born again experience. This was when I truly changed the mental and spiritual trajectory I was headed in.
Finally, I can say that this waking up process has been super difficult in the sense that I have had to pull out all the skeletons in my closets, face painful memories, and generally feel the discomfort of learning to let go of my ego. But it has made all the difference, and I would do it all over again.
Seeking to fully live,