The Fairy Tale Analogy
Most people have heard the fairy tale “Goldilocks and the Three Bears.” In it, a little girl wanders into the house of a family of bears that has gone out for a walk in the woods. She starts in the kitchen, first tasting Papa Bear’s porridge and exclaiming that it is too hot. She then tastes Mama Bear’s porridge, which is too cold. Finally, she tries Baby Bear’s porridge which is just right, so she eats it. After a nice breakfast, Goldilocks goes into the living room where she tries the three chairs. Then, to the bedroom where she tries the three beds. Again, there is a problem with each of the extremes. She finds herself enjoying (and destroying in the case of Baby Bear’s chair) the middle option. I thought about this story recently as it had occurred to me again how the narrow way, the very middle strip of options in between the two extremes, is the sweet spot where Christians should aim to live.
The Character of God
Take, for example, the character of God and how we should live as a result of it. Now, God is love, and we should love our neighbors. And God is just, and we should not tolerate or wink at sin. Take either one of these to the extreme, and you get big problems. Too much love without talk of justice, and you get “greasy grace.” This makes God into an idol pushover god who will take anything people dish out in the name of love. Taking justice too far, you end up with legalism. Then you have a harsh idol god of rules and regulations devoid of love and ready to pull the giant red lever to drop people into hell at any moment. God is both loving and just. The only way to understand where the line of one ends and the other begins is by diligent study of scripture and pressing in to know Him in a personal, empirical way.
Our Own Self Image
How about our own self-image? If we think too highly of ourselves, that’s arrogance and pride, and we know that God resists the proud. We can’t brag and boast about the things that we have only received because of God’s grace. We can’t think we are better than others when God is the sole source of everything about us that is good.
But if we think too little about ourselves, badgering and insulting ourselves in our own minds, we are hurting one of the little ones God calls His beloved. Plus, people with low self-esteem can hardly be a light for God and will struggle to move forward in ministry. We are loved and have been created for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. We need to live like it and see ourselves as we really are. That only occurs when we examine ourselves and pray for eyes to see as God sees.
The Question of Sacrifice
What about sacrifice? If we sacrifice too little, we are not taking up our cross and following after Jesus. We become lazy and self-serving. But is there a such thing as sacrificing too much? Here it gets tricky. On the one hand, nothing Jesus will ask of us is too much because we are to die to self and live for Him. On the other hand, there are ways to take this to the extreme. Either fasting and neglecting oneself become something one becomes prideful about, or one adopts such a lifestyle of sacrifice, denying oneself even the most simple pleasures in life that one can lose the basic joy of living. We are supposed to be the advertisement for God’s goodness and grace. What kind of role model to others can we be if all they see is us steadfastly refusing to enjoy the life He has given us?
Here, each person must understand his/her own limits and attitude, praying earnestly for God’s guidance to follow the narrow way. What is “too much” for one is “not enough” for another. And, Jesus is pretty clear about not us judging His servants. (It’s just something to think about when examining ourselves.)
The Message In Both
Now, the moral of the original story of Goldilocks is about respecting other people and living in such a way that we don’t harm others in pursuit of self. This, too, is another way the story can apply to the Christian life. Whatever our choices, we need to live our lives so that we become a light to lead others to Jesus. We don’t want to be the stumbling block that will cause them to fall. By diligent attention to study and prayer, we can understand the balance of God’s character, the reality of our own worth, and the measure of sacrifice in which we should conduct ourselves. In this way, we can be ever mindful of extremes and always holding out for the perfect, narrow way.
f you like points to ponder, try Goldilocks and the Narrow Way. In it, we see that the narrow strip of options between extremes is where Christians should live. Like to read more from Evangelical Christian sisters who “tell it messy, true, and wonderful because we are His”? Check out Telling Hearts.