“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. For the gate is narrow and the road is hard that leads to life, and there are few who find it.”
This is the word of the Lord.
Your Uniqueness Is Courage
Today is a kind of graduation service for those who are graduating from high school and also from elementary school. Graduation in other words is commencement. Commencement meaning ‘it begins’, so you begin a new chapter of your life. So I have kind of chosen this passage for you to meditate on as you read the scripture. I’m going to talk about the narrow road. I think the narrow road is not necessarily what we automatically think. We think it means to choose a hard and difficult life.
Maybe there may be hard and difficult life, but narrow road for me is your own unique life that you choose. You follow no one else but your own authentic existence. I’m not talking about just career, but also your existence. What is your unique existence in this world? I think we all are created uniquely, therefore we’re supposed to live a unique life. Sometimes people think ‘I’m going to be in this profession or that profession’, that doesn’t necessarily guarantee that you’re living a unique life. In everyday living your way of thinking, your way of doing things, your way of treating others, your way of thinking of God makes your life. You need to have your unique personality, your own person. And that is what is important.
If you ask a lot of old people. they all say, “I just thought that that is the life you’re supposed to live. So I did everything other people did, but after 40 years, 50 years and kind of wondering whether I chose the right path. When I was young, I didn’t think too much about it. So I just chose whatever is given to me by my parents, from friends. And I just followed it but now that I think about it, I ask, am I living my life or am I living somebody else’s life?” So it is very important to take the narrow road that your own unique life chooses. It doesn’t matter what age you are, I think that is something that we all need to think about. I do believe that to have to choose the narrow road or to make a choice you need courage.
You may wonder what courage do we need? I just, I choose things, but I think you need courage to make conscious choices instead of just living out what is given to you. I think you need courage to choose your own path. Not many people have that, necessarily. You have to have a very strong character to be able to choose your own path, not the path that other people are following. I personally think that you need lots of courage to make choices because often we let our circumstances dictate our lives. We let our circumstances dictate our thinking and the way we view the world. Making a choice in our life is a basic human right. Being able to choose for myself is a basic human right. In some countries that have dictators, the people don’t have a choice, but we live in a free world, so we have choice, but yet we don’t exercise the right to choose. We don’t exercise choice. Living in a very free world we let circumstances dictate us so that we don’t have to make any choices, so we live our lives without making choice for ourselves. I think that is a basic human right. Everything we do, we should do it with our conscious choice. “Yes, this is what I want and I want to choose that. I have nobody to blame because it’s my choice.”
But many times we don’t choose and then we turn around and say, “Oh, my parents told me to do this” or “Oh, there’s so and so did this,” or “At that time, all my friends did it, so I did it…” so that it’s not your fault. Ultimately, you make a choice. You’re accountable for that choice. You have a responsibility for the choice that you make. And maybe this why a lot of people don’t make choices because they are not courageous enough to take the responsibility, to take the blame. But making a choice takes courage and making a choice is a basic human right. A Christian writer said, “Destiny is a matter of choice, not chance.” Your destiny will be decided by your choice, not by chance.
Power In Your Choice
There’s a professional baseball player, Jim Abbott. He used to play for the California Angels, New York Yankees, Chicago White Sox, Milwaukee Brewers, and all of these famous teams he played, and Sports Illustrated once I praised him as a pitcher who can throw 90 miles per hour. These days, a lot of people do that, but at that time, that was kind of a unique and was a big deal. Since he was young, he wanted to play baseball, but his circumstances were not very good. He really desired to play baseball and to be in the major leagues, but he was born without a right hand. Think about it. You don’t have a right hand. You only have a left hand, but since he was young he wanted to be a baseball player. What do people say? What do his parents say? ‘No, Jim, maybe there’s some other things that you could do well with one hand’ or other friends may say he is being ridiculous. But he wanted to play baseball so much and at the end of it he made it. He was able to play baseball in the Major League and he was even praised in Sports Illustrated.
He chose to go for it. All of the other people said “Don’t,” but he chose to go for it. He said this, “I’ve been blessed with pretty good left arm and a not so good right arm”. He didn’t have a hand. Jim Abbott summarized his life in this way. “I had to learn to do it with one hand because that’s all I had”. You make choices with all you have. Don’t say that, “If I had money, I would have chosen that”. That’s just an excuse. He chose even with one arm to play baseball.
Your choice is a powerful thing that you can exercise in your life to live your own unique, authentic life. Our destiny is decided not by chance, but by choice. Jesus said to choose the narrow road. He said, 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. For the gate is narrow and the road is hard that leads to life. And there are few who find it. Only people who choose the narrow road will find life. Your own authentic life. People who just follow everybody else. You don’t find your own life. Entering through the narrow gate means we live with our choices. Many people take the wide road because they don’t want to choose.
Choose to find your own life since you’re young. Don’t delay it. Whatever you do even, choose to play. If you’re going to play, don’t play just because other people forced you to play. You choose to play. You choose to study. You choose what you want in your life. From when you’re young, you have to learn to make choices. Don’t blame your circumstances. In any circumstance you can exercise your basic human right to choose. Jim Abbott did not give up his right to choose just because he had only hand. He exercised his right to choose. Even in that limited circumstance, one hand was all he had. People who did not make a choice in their lives will live without empowerment. They will live without vision. They’ll live without passion. They will not make their best effort because it’s not something that they chose. They will do mediocre work, live a mediocre life. They will just float along with the rest of the people
About Your Choice…
But my friends, remember this: to make a choice, you have to know who you are. You have to know what God’s will is. You have to know your circumstances. Making a choice without thinking is not making a choice to me. It is a lazy choice, but to me it is not even a choice. To make the right choice, you have to think hard. You have to meditate upon yourself, upon God’s will and upon your circumstances, and then make your choice. So to live a life of conscious choice, you need to be a thinker. He had no choice but to be a thinker. You need to be able to discern a ray of light that penetrates through the darkness. You’ll be able to see that light. You should be able to hear the whispering voice amidst all the noise around you. You will hear that voice, a very clear voice, and you’ll see a ray of light. When you start making choices in your life, you can see the light. You can hear the voice. Only then we can make choices. Without seeing it, without hearing it, you cannot make choices.
Even if you make a choice, it doesn’t mean anything. In life we need conviction. Seeing the light and hearing the voice is conviction. You need to have conviction to live. One life we live, we live with conviction. St. Paul heard that voice. He lived a mediocre life. He lived a good life following the law and all the good things that other people said is good, but once he met Jesus Christ, all the things that he thought was good were not good anymore. He found his own voice in his life. Jesus’ disciples, what did they discover when they met Jesus? Conviction about life. I thought that was life. Just doing the work and then the fishing and all that. If I have more fish than I’m happy, I thought that was everything about life. But after meeting Christ, they found conviction in life. That’s what they found after meeting Christ. They found the secret of life in Jesus’ teaching.
One more thing about choices. First, you have to live with a choice. Second, you have to know to make a choice. Third is, when you start making choices, you will make mistakes. Definitely you will make mistakes. If you don’t make choices, you won’t make mistakes. If you start making choices, you will make mistakes and those mistakes will make you feel really, really bad because you made a wrong choice. You will all go through that ugly feeling in your life when you start making choices. That’s why a lot of people don’t make choices because they don’t like that kind of ugly feeling.
But instead of not making choices, learn to embrace your own mistakes and even that bad feeling. Don’t be scared of making mistakes. We all make mistakes. People who make conscious choices, you have to be strong. Okay, I made mistakes, but my life is not over. I’m going to attack again, and I am going to confront it again. Don’t be scared of mistakes. We faulty human beings always make mistakes. Our mistakes kind of make a judgment on who we are and that’s why we don’t like it, but through mistakes you learn. This is what Michael Jordan said, “I’ve missed more than more than 9,000 shots in my life. In my career, I’ve lost almost 300 games and 26 times I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed”. 26 times. He counted. In other words, he felt really, really bad. That’s why he’s saying that ‘I failed over and over and over again in my life’. We are talking about Michael Jordan and then he said, as I quoted before to you, “I can accept failure. Everyone, everyone feels as something, but I cannot accept not trying”. Why don’t you try something with your life? What are you so scared of? Do something.
Do what God wants you to do. Don’t just pay attention to your parents. Don’t just pay attention to your friends. Pay attention to God, and of course a lot of times God speaks through parents, so I’m not saying that don’t listen to your parents. Often, God speaks through parents too, but ultimately learn to listen to God. And to do something worthwhile, something beautiful, that can only come by conscious choice. Enter through the narrow gate.
(Reflection Song: You are My All in All)