There’s something about a rebel that tugs at our imagination. When we see someone who’s willing to set themselves apart from the crowd we feel their sense of freedom. Most rebels are obvious either by their clothes or their actions, but a few rebel in a very quiet way. These rebels may not be noticed by anyone, yet their rebellion is the greatest of all. Who are these quiet rebels and what are they rebelling against?
This is the sort of rebellion Jesus was talking about when he said, “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.” (Matthew 7:13-14). You may be wondering what rebellion has to do with gates and paths, especially since these verses are usually used to enforce strict compliance to religious and moral codes. But instead of keeping us within narrow confines, Jesus was talking about breaking free. He was encouraging his followers to liberate themselves from religious rules, not live with more constraints.
Since a gate or a door is a portal that allows us pass from one place to another, they are often used as symbols of transition. Before we go through a gate, we must decide whether we want to or not. The wide gate is so easy to get through; we might find ourselves going through it without even realizing it. It may seem more like an accident than a choice, but thoughtlessly moving with the crowd is still a choice. As Jesus pointed out, before someone could choose to pass through the narrow gate, they would have to put in the effort to find it. Difficult? Perhaps, but not impossible as Jesus also promised, “Ask, and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.” (Matthew 7:7-8)
Most people take the outcome of these paths, destruction or life, literally, but Jesus regularly taught using symbolic language. What did he mean? Let’s imagine that you’re planning a long drive and need to choose between two routes. One route is a direct and speedy six lane freeway, the other a two lane highway that slowly winds its way through several small towns and many speed limit changes. The freeway accommodates far more cars and offers many amenities along the way. This freeway takes so little effort in comparison to the highway, we could think of it as ‘the path of least resistance.’
In our world, allowing ourselves to be carried along by whatever society (including religion) dictates corresponds to the freeway. We like what is popular, what is comfortable, to do what is expected and ‘fit in’ with all the other travelers on the road. Being part of the group traveling the main route gives us confidence that our route choice is correct. Within this conformity, we’re allowed our personal preferences, opinions and tiny rebellions as long as we remain within the ‘white lines’ that define the roadway.
In quantum terms, this world is an illusion, a projected virtual reality, but those on the wide road are certain it is real. It is founded on a polarized thought system that sees everything in terms of separate forms. This includes its gods, who live outside material creation. As long as we continue to buy into the foundation belief in separation and seek specialness, we’re on the wide path.
The narrow gate and road are taken by the few who are courageous enough to see the universe in an entirely different way. Instead of accepting what the eyes see, they trade the perception offered by the senses for spiritual vision. They ‘see’ a universe of interconnected, indivisible Divine oneness where consciousness, not form, exists. They see material life as a dream, an illusion, projected by a tiny portion of deluded consciousness that refused to accept oneness. They realize they had made the choice to walk on the wide road of separation and specialness, but now they choose to leave it and enter the narrow gate and path of oneness.
It is not that the wide gate actually leads to destruction. If that were the case, no one would enter it. Nothing in Divine oneness can die, but we can ‘destroy’ our awareness of our true Self by forgetting who we are and continuing to project the little, false self. In our dream we walk the wide road of separation and specialness over and over in one lifetime after another, always moving but never arriving.
No matter how hard the little self tries to keep us on the wide road, it cannot completely stifle the voice of the True Self. We can remember who we actually are anytime we want to. The narrow gate symbolizes life because when we enter it, our dreaming stops and we ‘wake up’ to the Self. We live again as who we truly are.
Rebels generally pay a price for their rebellion, and that is why Jesus said the narrow road was difficult. Since it’s impossible to walk both roads at the same time, moving from the wide to the narrow road means letting go of the belief system that’s kept us on the wide road. This is a simple process, but it becomes easy or difficult depending on how attached we are to the ease and complacency of the wide road.
Only the wide road accommodates cruise control, the two lane highway doesn’t. As we uncover our social conditioning, attachments, aversions and preconceived notions, we go through numerous twists and turns. We need to keep our eyes on the little, false self and watch closely to see whatever detours it’s trying to make. If we do, we will find that we’ve traded something valueless for something of infinite value. Instead of taking us over level ground leading nowhere, the narrow road will take us to the highest peak where everything finally becomes clear.