“Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few” (Matt 7:13-14).
The flag stands some 500 yards away on a sharp dog-legged hole to the left filled with many potential hazards. The fairway is narrow and lined with sand traps and deep rough on either side. You do some mental distance calculation and conclude that you could possibly cut over the pond and rough on the left and if you hit it just perfectly. There’s nothing like “going for it” and turning a dog-legged par 5 into a par 4 by cutting the corner! Should you go for it?
Every golfer knows the situation I’m describing and can relate to the temptation to trying to take a short cut to the pin. I mean, who’s disciplined enough to play a short wood or even an iron off the tee in order to play the fairway and set yourself up for a good second shot? Besides, if you succeed in flying over all deep rough and water, and somehow land in the fairway, you’ll have a great chance for birdie.
If we’re honest, usually we regret it when we take such chances in the game of golf. The wise golfer plays the fairway. Likewise, Jesus’ words are pretty clear and simple when it comes to taking the wisest path toward in our life with God. To paraphrase Jesus’ words above in golf lingo, he tells us basically:
“Play the fairway. Many people try to find shortcuts and ultimately end up out of bounds or in the drink. The best way to the green is the narrow fairway, which is tougher to hit and therefore fewer take it.”
In golf as in our spiritual life, it takes self-discipline, patience and wisdom to take the longer, slower, narrower path to the goal. There is something quite alluring about finding shortcuts — in life, at work, in school, in relationships, in sports and in our faith. Yet, golf is not a game of speed but patience and accuracy. The goal is to play well not fast. And so it is in life. As we stand on life’s tee box looking out at the hole ahead, let us ask God to give us the wisdom and faith to choose his narrow way, even if it means resisting all of the popular, enticing shortcuts others around us are taking.
Oh, and don’t be surprised if you find yourself often all alone in the fairway, watching everyone else search desperately in the woods. But do as Jesus would do, and go get your feet muddy with them, helping them find their ball so they can get back onto the fairway as well.