The paths we choose
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There’s an amazing movie called ‘Facing the Giants’ in which a small underdog football team from a Christian school starts playing by the principals of the Bible and they take on the #1 unbeatable, unstoppable, and dirty playing Giants. If you haven’t seen it, I suggest you log onto your Netflix account right now and add it to the #1 slot.
In this epic movie, there’s a scene where a new inexperienced kicker is trying to get the ball between the posts to no avail. The assistant coach then uses scripture to explain that making a field goal uses the same biblical fundamentals, and in the tradition of a southern preacher says, “Now what does scripture say about this? Scripture says wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction. And many that be there find it. Now to us; that's wide left, and wide right. But narrow is the gate and straight is the way that leads to life, and few that be there find it.”
He’s talking about Matthew 7:13-14 “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.”
When I was in high school, I belonged to a pretty tight group of friends who did everything together. Only 2 of my friends had a car, so we’d cram into them and off we’d go to the bowling alley, the mall, or whoever’s house didn’t have parents home at the time. During the two years I was part of this group, we were all the same. We did the same things, we wore the same clothes, we ate the same foods, and we believed the same things. We were also moving on to something bigger than what the little town of Aloha, Oregon had to offer us. We moved with such unity that people wondered if we’d ever survive alone. Sometimes we got in trouble, sometimes we should have gotten in trouble and didn’t. We smoked and drank, but we didn’t carry guns or rob people, so in our eyes we were pretty okay. Over all, we had good hearts even though we didn’t always put them into the right things.
Then came the era of choices that started the progression of driving us in different directions, as often happens at the end of a high school career. Only one of us went off to university. A few of us got pregnant before graduation. A few of us played with drugs, and a couple of us got married. I remember the last time we were all together. I was 20 with a 2-year-old child I was responsible for. I learned about the paths my friends embarked on. One was in and out of treatment for bulimia and worked in a strip club dancing for creepy perverts. A few joined the military. Others worked construction. A few decided to go back to school at a community college. There were a few we couldn’t find because they either moved, or who knows. The one thing that stood out was that we were still all young and knew we were meant for bigger things.
One particular friend of mine had always been on a pretty okay path. He wanted to go to school for advertising when we were in high school. He hadn’t gone yet, but still planned to at our last group gathering. He was often times the conscience of our little group of hooligans, especially when it came to his little brother. He sort of stayed in the outer limits of the circle, moving in and out when he wasn’t busy with homework or something. Out of all of us, there were two I figured that would be successful, and he was one of them. He was like a big brother that I could count on to save me if I got in trouble.
More time went on. One of us died in a horrible accident on New Years Eve a couple of years later. Most of us drifted apart. Ten years went by and I had no idea where most of the people from our group went, but I figured they were doing about as well as I was in my train wreck of a life.
Through the magic of Facebook, a few of us got in contact again. My dive into Christianity happened at about the same time in my life as it had for others in our group. Something about being in your 30’s and clueless about why nothing in your life is working out the way you pictured it really makes you take stock. Since I was baptized, my world has filled with blessings beyond my comprehension.
Still, I wondered about some of the other people who I shared such a close bond with. I tried to find them, but they were invisible to my people finding skills. Last year, I learned to my horror what had become of my good friend who wanted to be an advertising executive. A married couple was murdered in their home blocks from where I live with my family now, and he was the man under arrest for their death.
As I’ve followed his trial I didn’t know how to feel. My heart broke thinking of the big leather chair in the fancy office that never was. I wondered what had happened in his life that drove him down such a dark path. I prayed for him and his brother, their family, and the family of the couple who was killed in cold blood over the business of drugs. Part of me wants to cry, and part of me wants to slap him, but part of me wonders why I care so much about some one that I haven’t seen in over ten years. Especially some one who would choose a life of drugs and murder to leave a small child fatherless and a wife alone. I wonder what that pivotal moment was that turned him from a life of aspiration and goals to a life of ugliness and addiction.
This brings me back to Matthew 7:13-14. People can start from the same point and with one small deviation can miss the narrow path to deliverance. One step in the wrong direction, one trip over the wrong stone, and you end up in jail wondering if you’re going to get the death penalty.
It just proves that you have to be diligent in your day-to-day life, and you have to be conscious of everything you do.
James Tooley, I wish you wouldn’t have strayed from your path in life. I wish you would have made it to that high rise office you always dreamed about. I wish your Armani suit was soft on your body and that your daughter was going to have a college fund so that she could grow up to aspire to be whatever she wanted to be. I wish she didn’t have to grow up with a daddy in prison for murdering people. I wish she lived in a family that could show her the narrow path to deliverance rather than the wide path to a life filled with sadness. I pray that some one is her light to show her the way. I wish you wouldn’t have fallen from that path. I pray for your family. I pray for your victims’ families. I pray for you and hope that when the drug induced stupor is gone that you can see the mess you’ve made of the lives of everyone around you.