Author: Amy Ostwald
Matthew 7:13-14 (NRSV)
13 “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road is easy that leads to destruction, and there are many who take it. 14 For the gate is narrow and the road is hard that leads to life, and there are few who find it.”
A few weeks ago I spent an exasperating hour at a mountaineering store in town. After trying on eight different pairs of cross-country ski boots, I finally bought the pair that seemed best. Not perfect, but close enough… I could feel my left heel lifting up a little in the back when I walked, which it wasn’t supposed to do— but after all that work, I pushed that knowledge to the back of my mind. This pair would do.
Last Monday I tried the new boots out on the snow up at Brainard Lake. As we started skiing along the trail, I could feel that heel lifting up in the back of the boot. It was exactly the sort of movement that creates a blister, I thought briefly, but quickly suppressed the thought. I was excited to finally be out on the snowy forest path; I just wanted to keep going!
“Want to stop and take care of that boot problem?” asked my friend, offering two possible solutions: tightening my bootlace, and putting a “Moleskin” bandage over my heel. I declined the kind offer to stop; the solutions were too much work and it was easier to just ignore the rubbing. After a while, though, when I began to feel stronger twinges of discomfort, I chose to try the easiest remedy: I took off my gaiter and tightened the bootlace. There– it only took a minute or two. Quick fix. I pushed on into the woods, determined to seize the day.
But the rubbing continued. I finally acquiesced to the growing pain and requested a stop to put on the Moleskin. We found a flat place to stop, where I took off backpack, skis, gaiter, boot, sock– and I found that, sure enough, there was already a tender blister on my heel. I had waited too long to acknowledge and attend to the problem; now the trek would not be as enjoyable. Hmm…I reflected as I pushed onward; I had to admit that this particular dynamic felt a bit familiar. In fact, looking back over my lifetime I could see where “little things” ignored—or taking the easy way out– had led to larger problems later.
It requires a certain discipline to take the harder road; to stop and pay attention to the splinters in life; to listen to the knowing, inner voices warning that something isn’t quite right. A careful look at the spiritual journeys of our ancestors in faith, though, makes clear that this more difficult way is indeed a better way. There are prayer practices that can help us strengthen our “listening” muscle, some of which will be offered here at First Congregational during the period of Lent. I’m planning to be there for some of these sessions, callouses and all.
In your presence, help us take a few minutes today to stop and pay attention to what is going on inside us. Is there anything that needs attending to? Give us patience to listen and to discern what changes might be called for. AMEN