While flipping through the National Geographic, I saw a photo that horrified me! It was of a man spelunking in a cave. He lay on his back in a puddle of water that came almost to his nose when his face was turned to the side. The space was so narrow, that he had to keep his face to the side because his nose would not fit in between the rocks above and below him. In order to advance just a few inches, he had to force all the air out of his body and push himself forward, stop, take a breath, exhale again and push ahead a few more inches.
Before I was saved, I was extremely claustrophobic. I didn't like caves, elevators, or even small beds. Now that I am saved, I am more at peace and tolerant of small spaces, but being trapped in small spaces still makes me a little uncomfortable.
I began to think about narrow places. Sometimes the narrow road takes us through some "tight" spaces. You know, those places where you hold your breath and hope for the best, or those places where you have to stretch yourself to the max in order to squeeze through. Sometimes it even requires you to lighten your load by leaving things you were carrying along with you behind so that you can fit through the place you are attempting to pass through.
The narrow road that leads to life is no different. It is not always comfortable. Sometimes we come to a place where we're not sure if we are going to be able to "squeeze through." For instance, when something devastating happens to us, we just have to hold our breath, hang on, and trust God to get us through because we really don't know how to get through on our own. So we just believe that God will either make us thinner or make the narrow place wider to insure that we pass through it intact.
Other times, we are stretched to the max! For me, these kinds of narrow places often involve the stretching of my character in order to be able to deal with the undeveloped character in others. It stretches me in the areas of patience, compassion, mercy, understanding, and humility. Fortunately, faith is like a muscle. When it is stretched, it develops tone, shape, and strength and is a better support of my body and I'm able to handle the next narrow place that I encounter successfully and in a way that pleases my Savior.
Then there are those times when I just have to totally leave something behind. This can be the hardest thing. Of course at salvation, we drop a great many things immediately, but over the course of our journey, God requires us to rid ourselves of everything that keeps us attached to the world. Sometimes the things He requires of us to give up just doesn't make sense to us. For me, this has been a lesson and a test in the area of submission. For instance, when my Pastor says that he feels something is harmful to me, I must be willing to lay it down and leave it behind me. It may not seem like anything that is inherently sinful. It may even have the label "Christian" attached to it. It may be something that I enjoy.
For example: my pastor, who is also my hubby, does not believe that playing cards are a good thing for a Christian to have. Now, I used to love to play cards and I was a good card player. I never gambled with cards or went to wicked places to play cards. They were a purely social activity that I enjoyed with friends. So when he said that, it was hard for me to think about never playing cards again and I honestly didn't see the danger in them. But because I honor and submit to him, not only as my husband, but as my Pastor and shepard-the one appointed by God as the guardian of my soul, the cards went and I have never played since.
I came to the conclusion that it would not make any difference to me in heaven if I did or didn't play cards while I was here on the earth, but if I chose to not submit to my God placed authority, even if what he suggested seemed insignificant and trivial, it could totally make a difference in where I spent eternity and could affect the ability of God to bless me in ministry and life while I was here on the earth. It just wasn't worth taking a chance. To God, the issue was not really the card playing, it was whether or not I was willing to unload something I was carrying along in order to walk in submission to Godly authority in my life. To be honest, I don't miss cards at all. God has replaced it with so many other good and spiritual things. Had I not obeyed, even though it seemed so silly to me at the time, I would have missed out.
I just read a wonderful book called "Touching Godliness through Submission" by K. P. Yohannan. It has blessed my heart in so many ways and I truly see the wisdom and love of God in establishing authority in our lives. As I read in the pages of the many examples of Godly submission in scripture, the life of the author, and the lives of Godly men of old, I gained a new understanding into the freedom of being totally submitted to authority, even when it causes you to pass through those uncomfortable narrow places in life. Walking in submission is truly a paradoxical experience. It just doesn't make sense to your mind, but it is totally liberating to your Spirit and well worth a little breathlessness, stretching and downsizing!