The Way is Straight, The World is Wide

The Way is Straight, The World is Wide February 3, 2014

This post is an attempt to capture something I’ve been pondering for awhile; we’ll see how it works out.

The diagram to the right is a picture of my (or any person’s) position relative to God at any given moment. God is at the center, and I am not. No matter where I am in my journey, I always have a straight shot to God. If I will only turn towards Him, there he is. It looks a bit like a target for a reason: the aim of the Christian life is to end at the bull’s eye.

At every moment, then, I have a choice. I can choose the straight and narrow path to God, or I can choose the wide and easy path out into the wider world. Drawn this way, it’s easy to see why the path to God is straight and narrow: there’s only one direction I can head in that gets me to Him. Every other direction will lead me away, either immediately or after a period of growth.

Now, in one way it isn’t that bad, because (with God’s help), I can correct my course as I go. God meets me where ever I am, and always wants to draw me in. The way directly to God is straight and narrow, but my course will be more winding.

This diagram also understates the difficulty of getting to God. It looks like a short walk, and you’re there. If we were without sin, it would be. But think of it this way. Imagine that the target is a sheet of thin rubber, like a balloon. Grab at the bull’s eye and pull upward. Every step toward God is a step uphill. Every step toward the world is a step downhill. And then, God is infinite, so pull the center of the target infinitely upward. (I wish I could draw that, but I can’t.) And then you can see that it’s much harder than it looks, and without Christ’s help we’d never make it.

Given this drawing, it’s easy to see why so many are not attracted to God, as they understand Him. Moving toward God seems so constraining. You can move toward the center, where everything is cramped and confined and your actions are circumscribed, or you can move outward to freedom and to all the interesting things that aren’t God. God looks like a bad bargain. Why work so hard, just to make yourself small? And going downhill is so much easier….

But there’s another way to look at it.

In the previous diagram, the brown circle represented my position at the current time, showing that I can move closer to or farther away from God. In this diagram, the brown circle represents my degree of growth towards God, and the light green circle on which it sits represents me. If I grow towards God, that circle increases. If I grow away from God, I’m not growing at all; I’m shrinking.

All movement towards God involves growth, involves becoming bigger. That’s why it’s hard, and why we need Christ’s help to do it. All movement away from God involves a turning to the self, and a shrinking. This point is key: the bull’s eye isn’t simply myself, as though moving toward God involves leaving my self behind. Rather, it’s my self at its smallest, my self in the grip of radical selfishness. Every movement toward God enlargens me.

With this diagram we see that the previous diagram was misleading. God is infinitely bigger than the world. Growing towards him doesn’t constrain us; rather, it makes us bigger. It’s moving away from God that constrains us, makes us small, binds us in the core of our hearts in selfishness and hate.

As before, the distance to move towards God is infinite. Once more, imagine that the target is a sheet of thin rubber, and grab it the bull’s eye…but this time, grab it from underneath, and pull down. For physics geeks, the result will look like a drawing of the gravity well around a black hole; and sin is the black hole’s gravitational pull.

All through our lives, sin drags us down into the black hole of self. Christ came that we can escape that black hole, and grow up and out.

In the end, either Christ will draw us to himself; or we will fall into the depths and become infinitely small. And that is what we Christians call hell.

And God gives me the choice: to walk with Christ out of the pit of unmitigated self into endless glory, or to turn inward, contemplating only my own self for all eternity.

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