“For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and few are they that find it.”
As I was hiking through the mountains, and following a pleasant little trail, I came upon a gate. It was small and unassuming as it sat alongside the trail; I had nearly passed it by. Wrought iron framed the parallel bars that ran up its middle and a small wooden sign hung on the gate. “To Life” it read, barely legible, in faded painted letters. I looked down the path, thinking that I couldn’t spare the time. There was so much more to see, and the path I was on was so beautiful and spacious.
Still, the gate intrigued me, so I pushed it open. It squeaked loudly. It was clear that the gate was not opened very often. My gaze fell to a path that wasn’t more than a foot wide. Tree branches hung down from the sky and roots jutted up from the ground. I didn’t know why, but I wanted to see what was down the path.
I examined the iron frame and the soft earth behind the gate. Some very old and very large footprints could be seen faintly pressed in the soil. I thought, “Whoever’s gone before me sure has some large feet. I hope I won’t need those size shoes to continue down this path!” I looked back at my wide and easy trailhead. It wound around a corner and out of sight, but the sunlight spilled in from among the high trees, and birds flitted through the open air along the trail. The path behind the gate looked dark and hard. The trail I had been walking looked bright and easy.
Still, my curiosity was peaked. I had to see what was waiting down this dark and narrow path. I felt special for having seen the gate, and I couldn’t waste the opportunity. I cinched up my pack and gritted my teeth. The low hanging branches obscured my view, so I crouched low and began the arduous hike. Branches and thorns were snagging my clothes, and the hike quickly became a climb. The incline was steep and steady. The path clearly ascended the mountain in a more direct fashion than the path I had been on.
The soil turned to gravel, then stones, then boulders. Soon I found myself scampering over rocks much too large for one man to move. The trees grew thinner and soon I was in the open air, but it was still well shaded from the sheer mountainside and the path never widened. The narrow trail of viable stepping stones stood starkly against the rest.
I climbed and climbed and came upon a man. He was short and scrawny like a man who hadn’t eaten in weeks. He wore only flip-flops on his feet but had a sparkling gold watch on his wrist, exactly like the one I carried in my pack. Its shine contrasted the rest of his pitiable garb.
“It’s time! It’s time! We must stop here. There isn’t time to move onward!” He shouted these words ahead of him. He stood on the precipice of the largest boulder I had yet seen. In front of him was a sharp drop down to a rushing river carving its way through the mountain and across the chasm it created was a narrow rickety bridge.
“Excuse me sir!” I said to him.
“Have you heard? The time is upon us!” he responded.
“What time are you speaking of?” I asked curiously.
“Why the time foretold of old when we were given our watches to watch!” he practically shouted back. “The end! It’s here! We must make ready now! There isn’t time to continue. We must prepare ourselves before the end comes.”
“Yes, of course we should. But how do you know it’s now, and aren’t you prepared already? What do you still need to plan?”
“Of course I’m ready. I’m not the one in question here! I’ve got to be sure the others are prepared as well. I’ve been given quite a task to perform. This watch isn’t going to read itself!”
He held up his wrist so that I could see the face of his magnificent watch. Just as with my own, there were no hands on it, only the hour markings around the edge of the clock face.
“But how do you know its now? That watch has no hands. Might’nt it come at any moment?” I asked.
“Indeed it could my boy, and that’s my point. We must be prepared for the journey of the end,” he said fervently.
“Excuse me for saying so, but you don’t seem prepared for any journey. You haven’t got any provisions or a change of clothes or even proper hiking footwear. What happened to your tools?”
“I’ve kept the only tool I need my boy!” He gestured to the watch again. “Don’t you know it’s time? We won’t have need of those tools of yours once the journey begins.” I saw him glance at the bridge out of the corner of his eye. Fleeting fear flashed on his face, but was soon replaced with urgency once more.
“I have an extra pair of shoes in my pack, and a clean shirt you could wear. Perhaps you’d like to join me on the rest of this hike? I’m anxious to see what waits at the end of it,” I said.
“No, no. Don’t you see I have a job to do! I’ve got to let everyone know that it’s time!”
“Well come with me and we can tell others we encounter on the path.” He looked at the bridge again and the same fear flashed as before.
“No, I’ll stay here to tell other travellers as they come,” he said quickly.
“But wouldn’t it be better to be busy with the hike?” I asked incredulously. Another fearful glance at the bridge.
“No, you don’t understand. You just can’t see that it’s time!” he shouted, but his voice faltered at this final proclamation. I knew it was no use, so I said goodbye and stepped onto the bridge. He winced when I did. I knew then that he wasn’t actually as concerned with warning others as he was merely afraid to continue the hike. I pondered this as I continued the walk.
Continued in The Gate is Small (Pt. 2)