The Cross Roads
Wherefore, as the Holy Ghost saith, To day if ye will hear his voice, Harden not your hearts, as in the provocation, in the day of temptation in the wilderness. Hebrews 3:7, 8
Joel stood at the crossroads of life. His dark shaggy hair fell over his youthful brow, shadowing the piercing of his deep grey eyes that were staring intently into the valley that loomed before him. A fierce inner struggle was taking place in the young man’s heart so that he groaned from deep within. “Which way should I choose?” he cried.
The Good Shepherd watched the young man who stood halting between two opinions and like the soft gentle rain falling from heaven, he began to speak softly into Joel’s heart. “Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness but will have the light of life.”
After contemplating the narrow way, Joel found that he just could not bear the thought of carrying that heavy cross through the gate of life and down the narrow road. Being quite aware of the story told to all travellers of how narrow was the way of the righteous, he cringed at the very thought of it. Joel knew that the narrow way led to persecutions and tribulations for the word’s sake and he sure did not want to be burdened with that.
Looking into the Narrow way, Joel realized that he would never be able to walk down such a narrow path and still be encumbered with the cares of this life. To his dismay he saw that cross at the door of Hope and there was just no way of getting around it. “You don’t want to take that narrow road do you?” Joel’s carnal nature balked as Joel pondered the narrow way. “Come on give me a break! That way is for losers, the simple-minded who need a crutch to get through life!”
Joel’s moral conscience that wanted to obey the written law rather than the Spirit of life, also cried out at Joel’s peering into the narrow way. “Don’t take that road! You won’t be able to obey the law for righteousness!”
Considering the voice of his moral conscience which tried to persuade him to walk in self-righteousness and his carnal nature which pulled him towards vice and vanity, Joel turned aside from the way of life and began his journey down the wide road.
Filled with his own ways, Joel was enticed by his carnal nature, to pursue after the pleasures of this life. With delight he traveled the wide road experiencing the most tempting sensations that he could possibly imagine. Revealed before him in all their arrangement of wonderful and tantalising fare were the pleasures of this life conceived from the inordinate desires of the hearts of men.
By choosing his own way, the traveler of the wide road at once began to pursue the passions of his wayward heart. Having resisted the gentle wind of conviction that blew over him at the cross roads of life, Joel’s heart soon became hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. By rejecting the way of truth, he was soon filled with the error of his own ways and it was not long before his journey down the wide road led him through the deceitful weeds of wicked intentions. In Joel’s ignorance, he began to pursue with rigorous fervour, worldly endeavours and being tempted by the dark powers of this present world who ruled the wide road, he soon became entangled with the affairs of this life.
The Good Shepherd who seeks out those who are lost and without hope on the wide road, continued to watch over the young man on his journey with great compassion. For Joel was a chosen vessel called by God for his eternal purposes and even though he would go through a time of great darkness, the Father who knows the beginning from the end would draw Joel and call him out of darkness into his glorious light.
Traveling through the weeds of wicked intentions that lead through the thorny spikes of worldly sorrows, Joel in stubborn determination continued in his own way until he came to the entrance of the land of Self-seeking. At the entrance to the city he saw a sinister looking man sitting in a booth by the wayside. Dressed in black attire and wearing a devilish grin upon his face the man motioned for Joel to come towards him. As he did, Joel saw a sign hanging over the booth where the man was sitting, that read; “Welcome to the Wide Road. All travelers required to exert self will and worldly ambition. Have a pleasant journey.”
The man at the booth, who was eyeing the traveler of the wide road rather impertinently with an all-knowing look upon his face, caused Joel to become rather annoyed. With an impudence of his own, he decided to confront the man head on. “What seems to be your problem?” Joel asked not bothering to cover up his quite blatant aggravation. The man at the booth just ignored him and with a mischievous grin sighed, as if to say, “I have been here so many times before and you are just another number of the many who are going their own way down the wide road. ”
Holding out a pair of dark glasses for Joel to take, the man at the booth began twisting his thin moustache, and said with a smirk on his face. “Here, friend, you will need to wear these if you want to continue in your own way down the Wide Road.”
“What are they for?” Joel asked as he held up the dark glasses to the sun and peered curiously through them.
“They are your blinders,” the man grinned again mischievously. “All our travelers must wear them, you know, they keep out the light.”
“How will I ever be able to see with these things on?” Joel asked the smirking man in bewilderment.
“These blinders will not obstruct your vision in any way, traveler, but serve only to keep the messengers of the gospel from penetrating your understanding. You do not want to lose your own way do you?” The man grinned with a look of glee.
“Why, of course not,” Joel balked. “who are these messengers of the gospel anyway?”
“Bothersome creatures and quite fanatic I’m afraid.” The man at the booth sighed with resignation. “They try to hinder your journey down the wide road and will even stop it if they can, by preaching that foolish gospel which claims only one way to salvation. You don’t believe that stuff do you?”
Joel shook his head quite vehemently. “No, I do not!”
“I didn’t think so or you wouldn’t be here.” The man at the booth laughed uproariously. “Who could believe such a tale? Did you know that those goody two-shoes are always trying to keep our travelers from enjoying the pleasures of this life?”
Wrinkling his nose with displeasure as he fastened the dark glasses on his face, Joel declared with pride, “I intend on enjoying the pleasures of this life and no pesky light creature is going to take off my blinders of that you can be sure!”
The man at the booth twirled his handle bar moustache and grinned even more at Joel’s wilfulness. “Well so long. I guess I’ll be on my way now.” Joel said as he turned around to continue his journey down the wide road. “I’m off to search for the pleasures of this life.”
The man at the booth then yelled after Joel, “Remember; don’t let those messengers of the gospel take off your blinders. You could get saved from the pleasures of this life and change over to the other side if you are not careful.”
“I’ll be careful.” Joel yelled back.
The wide road which at first was filled with ease and comfort gradually became cumbersome for the traveler and very unpredictable. Joel soon found himself being led down one dead-end and then another. Finally, after going down many bends and curves, the traveler of the wide road became quiet exhausted and he fell down into a crumbled heap on the cold and stony ground.
Just when Joel was drifting off into a deep slumber, from out of nowhere sprung up from the cracks of the hard cold ground, vines, which began ever so craftily to wind themselves about the traveler of the wide road’s feet. Clinging to his weak flesh the vines of vanity held on to Joel tenaciously, keeping him firmly fixed to the cares of this life.
Awaking with a start, the traveler of the wide road found to his dismay, that he could not in his own power break free from the intense grip that the vines of vanity had upon him. Creeping up his pant legs the vines of vanity had found their way to the traveler of the wide road’s heart, where with a death like grip they squeezed on tightly to his high-minded imagination that was being nourished, and fed upon the wisdom of this world.
At the point of absolute despair, Joel cried out, to God or a god, whoever would listen and come to his aid during times of trouble. To his surprise, once again Joel heard the familiar still small voice calling him to the narrow way.
“What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and yet loses his own soul? What can a man give in exchange for his soul? ”
Struggling with his carnal human nature that desired after that which perishes with the using, the traveler of the wide road found himself becoming more and more bound up in the vines of vanity. The more that Joel tried to get free from the ensnarement of the cares of this life, the more entangled he became. It was not until Joel completely reached the end of his own self-exertion that he finally began to be able to bend his leg inward just enough to straighten out his own way and get part of himself free. At the sound of the Good Shepherd’s voice whose mercy spread over Joel like the wings of an eagle, the vines of vanity eventually began to loosen their grip.
It was just enough for the traveler of the wide road to find a way of escape. Then with all his might Joel forced his way out from the vines of vanity which had grown in abundance on the hard cold ground. But like an ox going to the slaughter, the traveler of the wide road once again returned to the pathway of wicked intentions that he hoped would lead him eventually to the pleasures of this life.
Winding and winding, the way of self- seeking seemed to be getting Joel nowhere, until just before he was about to give up on ever finding his own way, he saw before him a lush valley spread out in the not too far distance. It was a wonderful discovery for the traveler of the wide road to be able to finally find a place to satisfy the longing of his empty heart and rest his weary troubled soul from the trials of life that he had just experienced.
In this deceptive valley on the wide road grew many trees, worldly and wise. Hanging from their branches were passionate fruit that was soft and juicy and blossoming among the enlightened of this age were flowers adorned with vain beauty; tempting tulips in a variety of colors, Chrysanthemums adorned with pompous pompons, peonies tall and tantalizing, roses with spiky thorns, daffodils trumpeting clusters of hearsay as well as many other kinds of wild flowers growing wild and wondrous.
The traveler of the wide road, with pleasure partook of the forbidden fruit of worldly desire as he frolicked among the wild flowers whose fragrance intoxicated him with euphoric pleasure, so much so that Joel soon became completely over taken by the love of this present world. Eventually, even the air in which Joel breathed became so enticing that he could scarce keep awake and alert to moral danger. Having his mind controlled by the sensual lure which had captivated his heart and dulled his perceptively, Joel was aroused exceedingly to the cares of this life.
Having his heart filled with the intoxicating aroma of worldly passions and the wisdom of this world, Joel closed his eyes and fell into a deep slumber, at the base of a huge willow tree that was filled with the strength and might of the gods of this age. He slept in self-confidence and snored aloud in his apathetic slumber.
Flooding the traveler of the wide road’s dreams were fanciful feasts of delicious dainties and delightful passions that tantalized his imagination. This caused him to sleep on and on without feeling any immediate consequence for his selfish motives and wilful deeds in which he pursued life.
When Joel finally awoke from his sensual dreaming his head was groggy from the heady aroma of the bouquets that surrounded him in the deceptive valley. Stumbling to his feet, with the worldly wisdom still lingering on his soul, the traveler of the wide road began to move ever so slowly through the valley and into a very crooked path which overflowed with the love of this present world.
Making his own way down the crooked path, Joel, was not quite able to shake the conviction of having resisted the still small voice. With concerted willfulness he hardened his heart and set his will once more towards traveling down the wide road in search of the pleasures of this life.
Like the sound of many waters, whose waves flowed back into the ocean, the still small voice became only an echo in his memory, with the words, “Come follow Me.” whispering ever so quietly into his heart.
By following the crooked path, Joel was led to many more crooked paths with each of these having their own particular bend. Some were muddy and cumbersome, while others were dusty and dry. Still others were lined with hewn stones formed by the ways of man having a hard path which reflected the hearts of all travelers who sought after their own way. “They have made for themselves crooked paths,” the Good Shepherd sighed as he watched Joel journey in his own way, down the wide road, “Whoever goes in that way shall not know peace.”
The crooked path led the traveler of the wide road towards all things askew and horribly deformed. The right way was maligned and evil spoken of and the narrow path mocked with contempt. After stumbling over many stumbling stones, Joel decided to rest in a grassy field on a crooked path, misleading in its delusive deviation from the truth.