As a student Alex was the personification of “bright eyed and bushy tailed.” He loved school. He was punctual, assignment on time, and homework done to perfection. Good marks came easily for Alex. He told me privately that by forty years of age he would be a top official of the corporation he chose as a career. From his daily productivity, I didn’t doubt this for one moment. Alex graduated, was a speaker at his commencement, and after university joined BP petroleum and rose very quickly to a senior vice president. He was 38 years of age. He also had a lovely wife Ellen and three children, two daughters and a son. Alex worked to make their lives comfortable and happy.
However this meant he was away a good bit of time, traveling to meetings, delivering papers, solving problems and making a name for himself in the company. Of course this took Alex away from his daughters’ ballet performances, and his son’s vigorous soccer triumphs.
Alex justified these absences by reminding himself that what he was doing was for the children. One day they would appreciate him for it. Each time he had to tell his disappointed children why he had to miss their events, he consoled himself with this excuse. It was for them.
Until one day while at a meeting he received an urgent call from Ellen. Brian, their son now fourteen, was in intensive care at St. Mary’s hospital. He had attempted suicide and left a note simply reading, “because no one cared.”
Alex was crushed. “How could Brian think this? Doesn’t he know I love him more than life itself? I did all I did because I love him ” These were his thoughts as he dashed to St. Mary’s. Yet Brian only wanted his father to be at games or sport’s banquets. He wanted his father to be pleased. Brian exceled to show his father he loved him. And his father was never there. Like two ships in darkness, they passed each other without seeing the other.
Alex had chosen a way to love his family that was comfortable for him. Believing this was the way to go, Alex never checked in with those he loved. If he had he would discover Brian’s feelings of loneliness and isolation. In his mind and heart Brian felt his father just didn’t care.
Luckily Brian survived and Alex and Brian talked this through. Alex changed his ways and became a “present” father solicitous not only for Brian, but his wife Ellen and his two daughters. They soon became a together family; work no longer replaced his family. His family became the real treasures of his life. The treasure he sought from that moment on.
Jesus said in Matthew 7:12-14 “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road broad that leads to destruction: and those who enter through it are many. How narrow the gate and constricted the road that leads to life. And those who find it are few.”
At first Alex was one of the many Jesus speaks of who choose the wide gate with the broad road leading through it. It is an easy drive, but the ending is not the reward or the happiness we seek. It is destruction without joy and without smiles.
Alex almost lost Brian because he wanted to give him a false treasure. Brian’s note helped Alex see another gate. This gate is narrow and the road through it tough to navigate, but it leads to the path of true living.
Brian wanted this “life” i.e. his father’s attention and love. Alex entered changing directions, putting his career on hold and giving himself solely not to BP but to Brian. While this new gate was somewhat constrictive in contrast to that wider gate, it led Alex and Brian to a deeper and longer lasting happiness.
This is Christ’s lesson in this parable about the narrow gate. This gate is snug so that we have to let go of what we don’t need to carry. It is a squeeze and to pass through we may have to reshape and change. Yet passing through it is better for the narrow gate leads to the very riches we seek and desire all along. Just ask Alex and Brian.