When I was in my early years of college I remember reading a book that described the work of the soul. The author described how “soul work” was so difficult, and he related it to the Bible verse that says “Small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” (Matt. 7: 14) He connected these two concepts and talked about how the work of the soul was so immensely difficult that maybe only a few people were willing to walk it.
I’m not sure why, but throughout all of these years this concept has really stuck with me. This thought has especially come up in the past few years of my life. Situations, seasons, and conflicts have arisen that demand Christ-like character in the face of anything but, and my heart has been pushed and prodded to limits I’m unable to articulate.
How can my heart hold fast to the character of Jesus in the midst of character-less actions? How can I work towards becoming more like my Savior when all situations and people around me seem to expect any other course of action? In a world that is labeled by mistrust, captive by back talk, and indulgent in selfishness, how can my footing possibly remain on truth that is rarely lived out?
It almost seems like the teachings and actions of Jesus are nice stories we hear on a Sunday morning and forget by a Monday night. These truths are sweet but when the world is asking for action bred in anything but innocent intention we succumb. We’re pushed over, and we like it. We think that this is how life should be.
And this is why the work of the soul is difficult. And maybe this is why that road to life is so narrow and few find it, like that author articulated.
The character of Jesus and his message to the world were against cultural norms, against what our human intuition thinks is logical, and against the justice and righteousness that we would call for ourselves.
The character of Jesus was saving a woman from being stoned when that’s what the law demanded. It was healing people on the Sabbath when it was considered unlawful “work.”
The character of Jesus was welcoming a prodigal home when by rights he shouldn’t have a place waiting for him.
The character of Jesus was showing His people a new way to live from their hearts instead of overthrowing their government and taking power as king.
The character of Jesus was knowing people are going to betray Him and keeping them on the journey anyways. It was realizing when He was being set up and still speaking from wisdom and not arrogance.
Does my life speak to any of these counter cultural actions? I’m sad to say that often, it doesn’t. My habit is judgement and my go-to isn’t grace. And it’s frustrating to change it to the way that Jesus acted. It’s actually really annoying to look at what’s happening around you and keep your mouth shut, pray, and have mercy as the only option. The work of the soul I think often looks like patience and quietness.
Sitting in my room the other morning I felt that frustration like never before.
“God,” I said. “Why? Why can’t I act like so and so? Why can’t I share my side of the story to retaliate? Why can’t I act how I want to?”
Because believe me, we all have stories we could tell. We’ve all had wrong done to us, and we all have the opportunity to retaliate.
I only felt this in return: “Maybe this is why the work of the soul is so difficult.”
We all have the opportunity for bitterness, revenge, anger, and gossip to be our portion, but I want mercy, grace, compassion and freedom instead. I want my life to reflect God’s character in ways that seem weird and rare. And even if it’s the hardest, most annoying work that I’ve ever learned or experienced on this Christian journey, I have a feeling it’s worth it. It doesn’t always seem fair in our eyes, but most of what Jesus did wasn’t actually fair.
So I pray that you’ll start looking at your life through a new lens that shows you God’s heart, and in seeing His heart through the stories we so often read lived out in your life, that you would begin a journey through the small gate and narrow road. I pray that you would see that narrow road as one of your greatest life challenges, and that while walking it, you would have a revelation of who Jesus is like never before.