My sneakers felt waterlogged, like they were really water shoes fresh out of a pool, thanks to the thoroughly damp tall grass as I trekked up our hill to spend time with God this morning. The sun, bright, beautiful, and unshielded by clouds, glazed me with its delightful warmth. The path I trod up the hill was equally damp and growing, very rapidly, overrun by the grassy weeds, but was still visible (even if I still fretted about getting a tick tacked onto my partly-bare calves); it reminded me of a Bible verse. This was going to be one of those days, I knew, where God would slip a mini-sermon into my life, once again:
“Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.” Matt. 7:13-14, NKJV
(No, this is not gonna be a sermon on predestination or anything; even though I’ve Calvinist and RP friends, I myself am not Calvinist, though I will at times agree with them on certain things.)
God used my morning constitutional as a physical lesson, or example, to me, about how hard it is to see the path spiritually sometimes, to keep following it, and to not give up, turn around, and go home– or worse yet, take the “easy” route, cut through the giant, grassy field, and risk getting a tick (or worse still– Lyme disease), falling into a groundhog hole (hey, they love our property– what can I say?), or the like. It is much better to follow a path paved out ahead for you, even if you can’t see it all that clearly immediately, rather than rebel and go your own way, against God’s wishes (and often against better judgement).
People in this secular world will often say the ever-popular phrase, “Follow your heart”. Do what makes you happy. Even at the risk of hurting and confusing others spiritually, emotionally, mentally, and yes, sometimes physically too. Even at the risk of offending our all-powerful, all-knowing, all-loving Creator Who, BTW, hates seeing us hurt ourselves and each other to begin with ( #insulttoinjury). Think you’re going to be reincarnated as a cow? No problem! Peeping toms and sexual predators in the opposite gender’s bathrooms, as long as they claim to be said gender? A-OK! Killing off babies by the millionthfold simply because they’re both good for business and a big inconvenience to you as long as they’re living? Big thumbs-up!
Pretty soon, if we don’t change course, we will be saying things like stealing, adultery, and murder (oh, wait… abortion IS murder. Scratch that.) will be acceptable and legal. Already some are even advocating that child rape should be accepted (yes, people are that insane.).
This is why I have a very, very serious problem with the “following your heart” advice. The world preaches tolerance and acceptance, but these are really euphemisms for, “Do whatever floats your boat, and we’ll try and support you.” Even if it’s harmful and sinful. God’s Word cites strongly against this advice, saying, “He who trusts in his own heart is a fool, but whoever walks wisely will be delivered.” (Proverbs 28:26). Furthermore, “Whoever robs his father or his mother, and says, “It is no transgression,” the same is a companion to a destroyer.” (Proverbs 28:24) The bottom line is, even if the world says something’s perfectly fine, if God’s Word says it isn’t, then there is a problem and you need to make a choice– the world or God? Just because the gov’t says something’s acceptable doesn’t automatically make it acceptable and ethical; in fact, that’s how many past gov’ts got away with murder, and with other types of sin too. Don’t fall off the Path in favor of the politically correct way… or you may just find yourself with Lyme Disease (spiritually, emotionally, and mentally speaking). Or worse.
Friends, I want you to know I write you all this as a warning, out of love. I don’t want any of you to fall for these pitfalls and stray from the Path God’s generously offered you to follow; in fact, for me to want such a thing would mean I am completely devoid of all compassion and care whatsoever. I know because, recently, I had to go against my heart. I had to go against what the world would have told me (“Follow your heart,” “Do whatever you want,” etc.), and listen to what God wanted… and I didn’t want to hear it.
I had to end a close friendship.
The friendship, from the outside looking in, may not have seemed much to ruffle feathers about. But (details sparing), it was really toxic. Oh, it may not have been as toxic as other friendships I’ve heard people tell me about, but it was toxic in more ways than one (or two.). It was toxic to me mentally. Emotionally. And, most of all, spiritually.
I’ll put it this way… when it comes to being friends who have vastly different beliefs as compared to mine (aka non-Christians/unbelievers), my motto is, “If they’re not pushing you towards Christ, well, at least make sure they’re NOT pulling you AWAY from Him.”
I’m pretty sure you can guess by now why God wanted me to end our friendship, even though I was incredibly reluctant to.
His influence on me was genuine, albeit his pulling me away from God was likely unintentional. We had been friends for a long while and knew each other very well. He was my gaming buddy, my confidant, the person I wanted to run to when something good happened. But I had been making constant excuses for him when he acted up or said something…. not nice(“Oh, he’s a good person” “Oh, he didn’t MEAN that” or “Oh, yes, he’s that, BUT he has a heart of gold…” Those didn’t cut it for God.). I least of all wanted to break my friend’s heart another time, and I knew that hurt was unavoidable in the process of breaking the whole mess off… So, I tried, instead, to keep it honest, simple, and minimize the bloodshed (so as to speak).
It did not end well, as you can probably imagine.
I was tempted, several times, to go back. To do what I had done a million times in our friendship after a huge fight: to metaphorically crawl back on my hands and knees and beg his forgiveness and, in this case, our friendship back, even though I’d done nothing wrong (also worth noting: he seldom apologized to me, and often finger-pointed a lot.). I then looked back and realized that while, yes, there were many good times we had together I’ll always continue to treasure deep within the depths of my heart, there were also many times I was outright miserable. I sometimes had to tread carefully in talking with him, or risk stepping on metaphorical glass. All of that should have been a huge red flag… and all of it still encourages me, simultaneously, to continue down the Path God had chosen for me, and away from the wild, grassy, dangerous fields of Toxic Friendships, Lies, etc. I also realized I had been too dependent on him for friendship; after I broke it off, God encouraged me to not only lean on Him, but to contact fellow believing friends for support and prayer (which I did, and it helped immensely).
The bottom line is, don’t chase after just whatever your heart may desire; see if it aligns with God and His Path, through Jesus, first. Remember, Jesus literally DIED to give you a shot at entering that Path; it would, at the VERY least, seem incredibly inconsiderate to not give it a try. Don’t fight Him, or you’ll end up heartbroken, as I was (and He doesn’t want that, either). Go with Him. Work with Him. Follow the Path into the “narrow gate” instead of the broad, wide one. And see the wonders He has in store for you.
“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it? I, the LORD, search the heart, I test the mind, even to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his doings.” Jeremiah 17:9-10, NKJV
Photo credit: http://leojones.deviantart.com/art/Grassy-Path-49975386