Weaving together the threads that make up my passion for the written word…as an author, editor, and follower of The Word.
Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow is the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.
“Mr. G” (so named for privacy’s sake) has been on my heart a lot lately, though I haven’t seen him in 22 years. He was one of my old science teachers. A tall, imposing man, he had a loud, booming voice, and a laugh you could hear all the way down the hall. He also had a kind face, and there was always a twinkle of laughter in his eye, as though he was telling himself jokes no one else could hear.
Mr. G was quite the character. He had a room full of animals (including snakes, spiders, and piranha’s) and helped defray the cost of their care by selling pastries to students between classes. He was well known for his antics in the classroom, which were usually his way to imprint some important scientific lesson onto our brains–even now remember some of them.
He was also well known for his spirited rivalry with the evangelical Christian students. A sworn atheist, Mr. G had a bust of Darwin on his desk and he celebrated Darwin’s birthday instead of Christmas. When “Darwin” sported a tinsel-topped party hat, we knew what day it was. Through the years, different groups of Christian students were always trying to convert him, a torch that got passed down from class to class. But Mr. G didn’t take offense–he took it all in stride with some amusement, secure in his disbelief. They frequently bantered back and forth, each trying to persuade the other with a different point of view. None that I know of succeeded in converting Mr. G, and he went happily on, celebrating Darwin.
A number of years ago I made contact with one of my other teachers from the same school. I asked her about some of my favorite teachers, including Mr. G. I was completely shocked and horrified to hear that Mr. G had been found dead in the stairwell outside his classroom. He had ended his own life. I could not believe that this jovial, good-natured man, who had been so well loved and respected by his students for more than 20 years, had done such a thing.
The teacher who gave me the sad news was still angry over what had happened. She told me that though many years had passed, she still hadn’t forgiven him, and didn’t think she ever would. One of my fellow classmates had a completely different reaction to the news. She thought Mr. G was perfectly in his own rights to end his life if he didn’t want to go on anymore. She seemed surprised that I was even bothered by it.
Both of these opposing reactions startled me to say the least. To harbor unresolved anger toward Mr. G., who was obviously living in silent distress, is only self-poisoning and helps nothing and no one. But to make light of suicide is even worse. Aside from the fact that our lives aren’t truly ours, but God’s to give and take away, the impact of Mr. G’s tragic act continues to effect others, like ripples on a lake that go on without any end in sight. No doubt the lives of his wife and children will never be the same, not to mention those of his colleagues, students, friends, neighbors, and every single other person he touched. Mr. G was not exactly a forgettable man.
I have no idea what was going on in Mr. G’s mind and heart that made him decide life was no longer worthwhile, or why he chose to kill himself in the school. I don’t think it would be fair of me to make any assumptions either. He left a note to his wife–what it contained I can only guess.
Maybe he suffered from severe depression, or maybe there was something going on in his life he didn’t talk about, but couldn’t deal with. All I do know, is that his death took everyone off guard, including his family. No one saw it coming.
In thinking about today’s verse, it occurs to me that the broad road leading to destruction isn’t always obvious. There is of course blatant immorality, and we see plenty of that in our anything-goes culture. People self-destruct on drugs, evil deeds, by leading impure lifestyles, and in many other ways that are easy to recognize. We tend to think as long as we’re not part of that group, we’re on the narrow. But there are those like Mr. G, a good person leading a good life, who still self-destruct on the inside. I will dare to say that there was something vital missing in his life–or rather, someone. I wish I could believe that among those multiple classes of Christian students pursuing Mr. G, one of them finally got through to him. But if that had been the case, I don’t think his life would have ended the way it did.
Ultimately, whatever his reasons were, he lacked the hope and faith needed to defeat his personal demons and make a different choice. Mr. G spent a lot of years and energy clinging to Darwin’s legacy, yet in the end the bust on his desk could not love him back, nor could it save him. He was a decent man with misplaced beliefs, and thoughts of him make my heart ache with incredible sorrow. He deserved so much better.
I wish I could go back in time and un-ask my former teacher if Mr. G was still teaching and how he was doing. My pleasant memories of him could have remained as they were, untainted by the devastating truth of his departure from this world. But wishing them away won’t make events like this any less real, or any less painful. And they happen every day. I’ve been avoiding finishing this blog post for weeks because the truth of it has been hard for me to write, and will be equally hard for others to hear. I’m sure someone reading this is already offended and disagreeing with me, but I have to speak honestly from my heart or there isn’t any point to writing at all.
This short passage of scripture is one of the seriously important ones. Mr. G didn’t get to that dark place overnight. He had been lost on the wide path for a long time, even if he didn’t know it, or acknowledge it. We’ve all been caught on it at different times in our lives…may even be walking on it now. And it is so easy to think we’re in the right when we’re headed toward the wide gate, because the ride is smooth, and easy. Comfortable, in fact. Everything fits in so well with what our culture thinks is acceptable, we’re lured into thinking we must be headed in the right direction.
But this passage warns that the road leading to life is narrow, and only a few find it. Only a few. To me, that says there are a lot of people on the broad path right now who don’t know it, and I’ll bet even some of them attend church. The question is, how far will we follow its allure before either self-correcting or self-destructing?
Lord, as I get older, I grasp the gravity of this passage more and more. I know that I’ve been on the broad path before without realizing where I was, and there are so many others following it–some are simply lost, while others are actively widening the path and trying to entice others to follow. The wide path is a deceiving place. During those times I was always so confident, and sure that I had it all together…until the truth of Your word freed me. There was even a time, long ago, when I found myself in the same dark place as Mr. G, and it was by your grace alone that I came out unscathed. Maybe that is part of why I have such a hard time letting go of Mr. G., why I continue to mourn the fact that he allowed himself to be swallowed by despair instead of placing his troubles in your hands. His end could have been so different. If I can’t let go of the pain, help me to use it for a good purpose. I pray for those whose feet have yet to find the narrow path. May they open their hearts and their minds so that they can hear your voice guiding them home.
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