Uphill. How long had she been trudging uphill? One foot in front of the other. One foot. No stops. No detours. Some people raced along the road, excited about what lay beyond the next slow bend. She’d been around enough bends to know the only thing awaiting them was more trudging uphill. So she kept walking. One foot in front of the other. Uphill.
She stayed in the middle
and tried to be good.
She tried to stay near the middle of the road even though the crowds were thickest there. On her right, the edge of the road topped a steep cliff. She once saw a whole family fall, but she turned away before they hit the bottom. Better not to see. On her left, a high wall bordered the road. It was smooth, sometimes even warm, but she could imagine herself crushed against it if the mass of people swelled. So she stayed in the middle and tried to be good. One foot in front of the other.
The movement of her own feet sometimes mesmerized her. She’d once gotten dizzy from staring down at them. Better to look ahead, look where she was going.
But where was she going?
“No idea,” she said aloud. A few people turned in surprise. She shrugged and lowered her eyes.
Maybe she was turning into one of those crazies who stood on the walled side of the road and waved at people. They always looked friendly, but why did they wave instead of walking? A few didn’t wave. Instead they screamed or held signs, but their words—spoken or written—made little sense. “Repent?” “Believe?” “Kingdom?” What Kingdom? Would a king stop the uphill trudge? Would a king explain the point of walking? Would a king let people fall off the edge of the road? A bunch of crazies, that’s what they were. All of them.
But some seemed so sincere. She was almost tempted to stop once when some guy gestured to her and pointed at a crack in the wall. He’d thought they could escape through the crack. He said it was a gate. Still crazy. That had been a long time ago. Why was she thinking of it now?
Her eyes were
drawn to the wall.
“One foot in front of the other, Jeanne.” This time, she muttered so that no one else heard. But her eyes were drawn to the wall even as her feet continued their steady rhythm. She made eye contact with one of the crazies. Uh-oh.
Instead of waving or yelling or pointing, this woman stepped into the crowded road and weaved toward her. Without asking, she reached for one of Jeanne’s heavy bags, but Jeanne hesitated and the woman smiled. Why did she trust this woman already? Jeanne released the bag. The woman fell into step beside her, even pointed out a pothole to avoid.
After a while, she began to talk. Her name was Mary, and her story felt both strange and familiar to Jeanne. They laughed together. How long had it been since she laughed? The woman talked about a gate that would lead them out of this never-ending uphill drudgery. She had found it and gone through it. When she experienced the peace and lack of struggle on the other side of the wall, she knew she had to come back and show people the gate.
“So those crazies along the wall… Oh, sorry!”
“No, that’s okay.” Mary smiled. I used to think they were crazy, too, but they’re telling the truth. They just have…unusual…ways of saying it.”
Jeanne continued. “There really is a gate? There really is another way? There really is a better life?”
“Yes, yes, and yes.” The whole time they talked, Mary had been steering Jeanne very gradually toward the wall. Now they stopped. A couple of people behind them grumbled and jostled around them. “Look, Jeanne.”
Jeanne had to tear her eyes away from Mary’s glowing face. Mary was pointing at the wall. But it wasn’t a solid wall anymore. There was a clearly a gate. Jeanne did a double-take. Yes, definitely a gate. Why hadn’t she seen it before this moment? “Is this the gate you went through, Mary?”
“But you joined me back there,” Jeanne pointed down the road, “and the gate is here…,” her voice trailed off.
There’s only one gate.
“There’s only one gate, Jeanne. It appears when you’re ready to see it, but in reality, it’s always been right beside you.”
“I know. I don’t exactly understand it myself, but that doesn’t stop it from being true, does it?”
Jeanne’s voice belied her hesitation: “I guess not.”
“Come on. Let’s go!” Mary was already touching the gate, but Jeanne felt rooted to the spot. The uphill trudge might not be exciting, but it was familiar. She knew what to do and how to manage. Beyond that gate…well, who could know for sure?
Mary turned toward Jeanne without taking her hand off the gate, patience and desire somehow mixing on her face.
Jeanne slowly filled her lungs with air. On the exhale she moved her right foot toward the gate. One foot in front of the other, into new life.
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 the road that leads to life, and only a few find it. -Matthew 7:13-14
Jesus said, “I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved.” -John 10:9
…And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? -Romans 10:14
Any thoughts? How does this image sit in your mind? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.