stop looking at the dirt: how I’m like the rich young ruler

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Release the tight-fisted grip on your own image of yourself.

This is a sentence in my journal from the past week.

It was scribbled there after Holy Spirit gifted me with a Vegas neon sign flashing on a passage I’d read many times: Mark 10:21.

And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” Mark 10:21 ESV

Jesus knew the ‘rich young ruler’ would walk away from him disheartened and sorrowful by the thought of letting his ‘great possessions’ go.

Jesus knew the young man considered choosing to surrender what he had and follow Jesus seemed impossible.

Jesus knew this man, who had kept all the rules and considered himself alright, wanted more (verse 17), but in the moment wouldn’t say yes.

And yet, looking at him, He loved him.

Later on in this chapter, while the disciples were astonished with words coming from Jesus’ mouth, He makes this profound statement: ‘With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.’

As I sat, Bible open, seeing this exchange in new light, I knew that I’ve faced this conversation with Jesus many times. It may not be about great wealth or possessions, but it is about other things I cushion myself with, I feel in control of, or bring some weak sense of satisfaction and joy.

In my own way, I approach Him and ask what must I do for more abundant life, for sweeter joy, for greater peace? I do my best to stay in between the lines the Bible draws, I strive to resist temptation and repent quickly of sin. I try to please you and honor you with my thoughts and actions. I know the ‘thou shalls’ and the ‘thou shalt nots.’ He responds with, ‘Yes, but one thing you lack, let go of these grace-ignoring scales of being loved and mattering to the world and Me, cultivate life in heaven, and follow Me and only Me.’

Following only Jesus means submission. Letting go of my way, my desire for control, my desire to be great, my want for approval. Following Jesus means practicing a willingness to submit to His lordship, not my queenship of my little kingdom. Some moments He reminds me of this call, and I say yes. Other moments, for a while I walk away staring at the dirt.

And yet, if I looked into His eyes, I would see love. He will always know the way I will choose. He knows my weaknesses before I know them. He knows my heart right now and He can see it 5 years from now. He knows how much I love Him and knows how much more I could love Him. He knows my desire for Him and He knows the moments I’ll choose lesser loves. He sees me completely, from now through eternity, and loves me entirely. Because nothing is impossible with God. And His conquering of the impossible begins and ends with Jesus.

H A L L E L U J A H.

We must be content to walk in Christ’s steps, and let the world say what it likes. J.C. Ryle

Release the tight-fisted grip on your own image of yourself.

And more, as if He’s writing it to me…

Let go of the expectations you put on you to be better, know more, and try harder. Surrender the anxiety you carry about your weakness, your lack, your struggle. Instead of prioritizing righteousness, prioritize Jesus. Let your goal be Him. Let your effort be cultivating deeper love for and trust in Jesus, not cultivating your own awesomeness.

Because like the disciples, asking “Then who in the world can be saved, if not a rich man” (verse 26)? When I’m tempted to ask, but who can be saved, considered worthy of being saved, if not the person who is constantly growing and faithful and disciplined and a model Christian?

Jesus looked at them intently (as He looks at me if I lift my eyes), then said, “Without God, it is utterly impossible. But with God everything is possible” (verse 27, TLB).

We always have a choice: God or self. And even when we choose self, for the day or for 5 years, He never tires of forgiving, embracing, helping, and loving. (Among so many other glorious realities of His nature.) So let’s resist the temptation to stare at the dirt. Look up, see His eyes, see Him loving us. And follow Him, no matter if it’s two steps forward, one step back. Maybe we’ll even enjoy the long, gradual, sometimes annoying process of our sanctification… because He isn’t going anywhere, and we can learn more and be changed and love more for the rest of our lives.

There’s so many passages about this surrendering and following, this choosing of God or self, this looking at the dirt or looking at Jesus….

So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me… What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord! Romans 7: 21, 24

Everything else is worthless when compared with the priceless gain of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. I have put aside all else, counting it worth less than nothing, in order that I can have Christ. Philippians 3:8 TLB

For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? Matthew 16:25-26

It can be the greatest adventure of all if we (cough, I) can make peace with our humanity and revel in His God-ness. Amen?

“Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food.Incline your ear, and come to me; hear, that your soul may live.” Isaiah 55:1-3

Do you find yourself in a place of surrender? Are there habits inside you that feel impossible? Do you find yourself looking at the dirt of the eyes of Jesus?

I’d love to talk about it with you.

p h o t o

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