Recently Carl and I, along with a younger couple, prepared to teach a prison Bible study. We discussed how, as we endeavor to follow the Lord, the path is growing ever more narrow. That concept was the theme of our evening with the women in white.
Today I found this column, written in 1996, and realized how well it applies to today. Perhaps it will bring clarity to some issue that’s a struggle for you; you wonder why you don’t feel quite right about doing some things that formerly didn’t bother you at all.
“Due to increased security measures, airlines recommend passengers arrive at the gate at least ninety minutes before scheduled departure.”
Calling to confirm my ticket and to verify that my flight home to Dallas was scheduled to leave at the regular time, I listen to the same recorded announcement I’d heard when getting ready to leave for Milwaukee a week before.
Rumor had it that the people at the x-ray machines might check through everyone’s carry-on baggage, but when I left for Milwaukee I was waved on through. Obviously I don’t fit the profile of a terrorist, I thought, congratulating myself that for once looking like a middle-aged midwestern grandmother was an advantage.
Just then the guard instructed the person behind me, also a fairly ordinary looking woman, to empty the contents of her purse into a basket.
Now I’m not so sure. Apparently the desperately average are subject to the same scrutiny as the suspiciously distinctive.
In a world of terrorist bombings, airplane crashes, pipe bombs in public parks, drive-by shootings and angry drivers carrying handguns, we tolerate delays while airport security people search our luggage, but I draw the line at having complete strangers scrabble through the disparate bits and pieces in my handbag. I decide I’d better prepare for this flight before we leave for the airport.
“Why are you cleaning your purse now?” asks six-year-old Hanna.
My granddaughter looks over my shoulder as I dig through candy wrappers, charge slips, hair pins, ball point pens, lipsticks and the magnifying mirror I need to apply them, combs with two or three gray hairs (who borrowed my comb?) and a few other items which I don’t recognize.
“You sure have a lot of junk in there.”
I thank her for caring and explain that this is unusual; I’ve been traveling for a week now, and things tend to collect in my purse. Under normal circumstances it is quite neat, I assure her.
“Yeah, right.” she says.
The television plays in the background, and announcers are interviewing Olympian Michael Johnson. He has broken another record and won another gold medal, the ultimate prize for one who set his heart, mind and body to go “faster, higher, stronger.”
Hanna brings me a paper grocery sack, and I divest myself of everything I don’t need to have in my handbag.
Before we leave for the airport I also go through the rest of my bags, those I’ll carry on the airplane and those I’ll check through to Dallas, and put them in order. I wouldn’t want to be embarrassed or unnecessarily detained if airport security personnel should decide to turn my stuff out on a table in full view of God and everybody.
The prospect of having everybody see what’s in my suitcase is far less appalling than the sure knowledge that God knows very well what I’m hiding and I’ve already been warned there is nothing hidden that will not be revealed.
“It’s for your own good.”
I’ve never liked the sound of that, but I know the increased security measures are for my own safety. I’ve grown to understand, too, that the increased scrutiny God seems to be bringing to bear my life is part of His plan to shepherd me into freedom and wholeness.
Fashion trend observers at the Olympics noted that runners’ spandex costumes are getting progressively more brief. Olympic athletes understand the principle behind Hebrews 12:1 in which Christians are exhorted to throw off anything that would slow us down and delay our progress toward the goal.
Paul wrote to Timothy about the race set before us, and about our righteous Judge who will award a prize far better than a gold medal. There is in store for us, and all who have longed for Christ’s appearing, the crown of righteousness.
As I run this race, the path seems to grow more narrow, the climb steeper.
The Holy Spirit is intensifying the call to obedience, focusing scripture’s beam on issues that didn’t seem to make much difference before.
I sense God saying, without binding me to a new legalism, “Others may but you may not –it’s for your own good.”
The clock is running. I need to throw off anything that might hold me back or slow me down, and in doing so I find I am free to run this race faster, higher, stronger. By dealing with obedience issues now I am free of concern about what will be revealed in the pure light of His presence.
So I press on. As I seek His truth, His light, His ways, I know the exquisite reality of the words to an old hymn. While day by day the path narrows and grows brighter, steeper, my life is “richer, fuller, deeper. Jesus love is sweeter…sweeter as the years go by.”
“…I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:14