There was a narrow gate in the hedge, with a path leading away from it on the other side. Some people were going straight through; looking, you could see that these people were unencumbered, carrying nothing extra with them. There were others trying very hard to open the gate, but they had so much baggage with them, they were never going to enter. Some of these approached the gate with heads held high, knowing they had a perfect right to go through, and almost demanding entry, based on how much they had done, or who they were. They were not going to get through the gate like that. Some were carrying so much that they couldn’t see the gate, let alone get near it to enter. Some people, however, could see those who were going through the gate, and were very gradually laying aside that which they carried with them. Every now and then one of these people would become completely unfettered, and would jump for joy, before opening the gate. A cheer would go up, often from those who had already gone through, but also from some of those who had yet to get there.
Looking closely, some of the people who hadn’t gone through the gate yet looked as though they could get in. But they weren’t trying .. yet; instead, they were helping those who wanted to get in. They were helping others lay down their burdens, pointing people in the direction of the gate, and trying to explain to others what they needed to do in order to enter. They were having more success with some than others. Occasionally, the gate would open from the other side, and someone would come through and join this band of helpers. Some people needed to be shown the gate, or have its’ very existence explained. These people were wondering around, seemingly quite happy, yet adding every moment to the burdens they carried. There were others who felt they weren’t worthy to enter the gate; they weren’t even trying, convinced that they would never get through, and that they shouldn’t try. These people had very special helpers, holding them and loving them until they were able to hear. Sometimes, the people who thought they were worthless were aware of these helpers, others couldn’t even see them. But either way, all were held in love, and every now and then, one would rise and begin their journey, somehow sensing that the gate was there for them too.
In and around all these people was, in some strange way, the gate itself. In order to go through the gate, you needed to lay down your baggage but you also needed to know the gate as who it was; or, rather, let yourself be known by the gate. Some of the baggage people were carrying was an attempt to convince the gate that they were worthy to come through; others were carrying stuff to hide from the gate. But the only way through was to let the gate know you. The strange thing was that the gate already knew the people out there; that’s why the gate was there, helping people to find it. It knew far more than the helpers what was preventing people finding and going through, and it was helping them. The gate wasn’t there to prevent people going through; it wasn’t trying to create difficulties; it wanted people to open and enter in. But not everybody could or would … at least, at this time.
There were, occasionally, people who were carried through. This looked rather strange, at first. Nobody could get through the gate with baggage, so how could people be carried in? Yet, the gate knew these people; knew that, for some reason or another, they were not capable of entering by themselves. So, they were taken in; they did, of course, have to agree to this. There were also people on the outside who needed help, but who were too proud to accept it. These people had a longer journey.
So how do we get through the narrow gate? (See Luke 13:22-30, Matthew 7:13-14). Well, I can only speculate and suggest. But I think the crucial point is in the passage from Luke: ‘I never knew you; I don’t know you’. The way through the narrow gate is to know Jesus; or, rather, to allow ourselves to be known by Jesus. Of course, he does already know us, through and through, so any attempts to hide ourselves, or pretend we are something other than what we are will be a complete waste of time. Nevertheless, we seem to spend much time trying; sometimes we are hiding from ourselves, as much as from God; yet even this may not be totally helpful.
God loves us as we are, not as we would like to be; and it is only in accepting that love, as who we are, that we can begin to become who God created us to be. Which none of us are, yet. So, in knowing Jesus, and allowing ourselves to be known, we begin by seeing the baggage we hold for what it really is, and then we may start to lay it aside. In doing that, we will need the help of others, and we may ourselves need to help those around us. For, however narrow the gate, we can only enter in together; we rejoice when others enter, we are a community. To enter as though by right will be to go through the wrong gate. It is a narrow gate, for we must give up much in order to enter; yet, at one and the same time, it is an enormous gate, allowing entry to all who can, and only to those who know they are loved… and that therefore so are others loved. For the gate we must go through is not approached by a set of rules, or a number of tasks we must complete. It is a gate of love, for the gate we go through is Jesus himself, and we can only see that gate if we know Jesus, and are known by him. (See John 10:7-10).