The words “straight and narrow path” are used in many scripture passages to describe the path that we need to take to gain eternal life. But do we sometimes think that the path is too narrow or become too hard on ourselves, or others, if we feel that we are on the path but not walking it straight?
The straight and narrow path is a clear way that the Lord has provided, for us to come back into His presence. The path is not marked by narrow walls or signs pointing where we should go, but by the commandments and guidelines that He has revealed through His prophets—both old and modern.
We are commanded to follow the straight and narrow path, but we are not expected to follow it perfectly, at least in this life, because it is impossible to do so in our mortal state. We are just expected to continue to strive to stay on the path once we’re on it.
To many people staying on the path means remaining faithful despite challenges, obeying the commandments with exactness, adhering to the counsel of prophets and leaders, attending church regularly, paying a full tithe, and reading the scriptures daily, among many other things. To them, it means having a steady commitment to live the gospel of Jesus Christ day by day.
Many people aspire and strive to “stay on the path” this way. Somehow, it has become the standard of living the gospel that we use to judge ourselves and even others, when we each live the gospel a little differently. Sometimes, we even question our faith or commitment to the teachings of the Savior.
However, on our journey along this straight and narrow path, we must recognize that everybody walks it a little differently. Some walk it as soberly as possible—living the gospel almost perfectly. Others stagger unsteadily from side to side but remain on the path. Many people lurch one step forward and two steps backward but stay on the path. Others find a small alley and do a detour only to find themselves tiptoeing their way back on the path. Many lose their way and never come back.
So what’s the point of pointing all these out? It’s a call to perhaps help us understand that every one of us, in our own way, is just trying to stay on the path that will lead us home to our Heavenly Father. And no matter how we do it—staggering, backwards, flaws and all—He is happy with every little step we take to press forward.
God knows that life sometimes sends us hurling in different directions—directions that often rock our faith and challenge our beliefs. He knows our struggles and silent petitions. He knows about the many times that we we’ve stood at the edge of another alley, but we chose to stay on the path. He knows the moments when we were almost at the brink of sin, but we decided to listen to His promptings. He remembers the nights we didn’t feel like praying to Him, but we did anyway. He knows about the times when we felt too ashamed to return to Him, but we swallowed our pride and repented of our sins. He knows how hard we are trying.
So the next time we feel that we are walking the path a little unsteadily, let’s not beat ourselves up thinking that we’re not faithful enough. Because no matter how unsteady we are, we have a steady God who offers His hand to help us get back on our feet again.