For our wedding anniversary one year, a couple in our church wanted to celebrate by taking us to dinner. Because we lived on opposite ends of town, we decided we would just meet at the restaurant so we asked for the name and directions. They gave us the cross streets and told us the restaurant had no sign. We had to look for the plaza where it was located, park and then walk to it. “Once you get there,” our friends said in a low tone of voice, “ask for Joe.” We thought maybe Joe was their favorite waiter, so we nodded and didn’t ask any further questions.
That evening, we got all dressed up and headed to the restaurant. The closer we got, however, we noticed we were in a very dark and dilapidated part of town. There were no cars around us, no people walking the streets, and under the cover of night, it was almost impossible to find the sign for the plaza. We finally did but wondered what kind of place our friends had chosen. As we walked toward the plaza, I held on tight to my husband’s strong arm and he tried not to show how nervous he really was to be in such a strange place.
We looked for the restaurant but could not find it, so we went into the only place in the plaza that looked open—a liquor store. “Great,” I whispered. “They invited us to a liquor store!” We asked the attendant if he knew where this mysterious restaurant was and without a word, he pointed us to an old wooden door in the back of the store. My heart was pounding as we approached the rickety old door surrounded by empty beer bottles and discarded boxes. “What if we had been set up for a crime?” I know… I’m dramatic!
Brian went to turn the knob but it was locked. So he knocked. Once, twice, three times… until a rugged-looking man opened a small window on the door. In a threatening voice, he said, “What’s the code?” “What code?” we asked. Looking at us dismissively, he slowly closed the little window. We were puzzled and dumb-founded as we stood there staring at the floor. A few seconds later we remembered what our friends had told us, “When you get there, ask for Joe.” So we got the courage to knock again. The little window opened, and the same man barked, “What’s the code?” Sheepishly, Brian asked, “Is Joe here?”
At once, his demeanor changed and he swung the old door open to let us in. As soon as we took the first step, we entered a completely different world! Waiters dressed up in tuxedoes, chandeliers illuminating elegantly decorated walls, beautiful classical music being played by a live quartet, and our smiling friends waiting for us at a candle-lit table. Needless to say, it was a wonderful evening of laughter, great food and unforgettable memories. After we said our last goodbyes, I thought to myself, “What if we had given up on finding this place?” We would have never experienced the sights, the sounds, the great service, and of course, that amazing prime rib we ate down to the last bite! Joe’s Place was so worth our trouble!
Today’s verse tells us: “You can enter God’s Kingdom only through the narrow gate. The highway to hell is broad, and its gate is wide for the many who choose that way. But the gateway to life is very narrow and the road is difficult, and only a few ever find it (Matthew 7:13-14, NLT).
It isn’t that the narrow gate to the kingdom is reserved for a privileged few. It’s that most people settle for the easy road to the easy gate. But easy does not get us anywhere worthwhile does it? A Big Mac at McDonalds up the road would have been easy and safe that night—but not worthwhile.
Today, you might feel very lonely on that dark narrow road God has placed you in while you look at the masses filing happily into the broad and attractive gate. Whatever you do, don’t go that way!
After all the trials you have been through you may ask, “What is the kingdom, after all? Is it worth my time, my sweat, and my tears? Right now it sure feels like a fairy tale. I need solutions now!” Romans 14:17 tells us, “For God's Kingdom is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of the righteousness, peace, and joy which the Holy Spirit gives” (GNT). If you look for the easy way out, you’ll get temporary relief, but your problems will still be there tomorrow, won’t they?
The kingdom of God is not somewhere hidden in eternity. It’s here. It’s now. It’s just not the easiest place to find. But when you find it in your circumstances, in your pain, in your fear, it is so worth your trouble! The way there may require drastic changes in your lifestyle. It may demand walking all alone. But at the end of the day, if you choose the narrow path you get what very few get—right living, peace and joy.
So whatever difficult decision God is asking you to make today, go ahead, bite the bullet. However lonely that path is, walk on. I bet you can see that old wooden door at the end of the road, can’t you? Once you get there, just ask, ‘Is Joe here?’ The door will open and you’ll be so happy you stayed the course!
- Mercy Alarid is the Creative Arts Pastor of Passion Church. Mercy has a Master's degree in Education. Mercy is a member of the faculty of Central New Mexico Community College, where she is an instructor in the Education department. Mercy has been married to Brian for 17 years and they reside in Albuquerque, New Mexico with their 3 children: Chloe, Colin, and Lauren.