I’ve been looking for the real roots of our worth and value. If we strip all the events, work, relationships, games, entertainment, phone calls, and things from our lives. who are we? Somehow, this scary question feels hopeful. It feels like a stripping that might yield joy after the pain.
I don’t like lies. There is a lie that tells us over and over and over again, that we are what we do, what we earn, what we produce, what we control…
The lie traps us, running deeper still, until fundamentally we believe, somewhere deep inside, that without anything outside of ourselves, we are nothing. Beyond what we can control and create, beyond what we can say and portray, beyond what we can collect and accumulate, we are but a lifeless void.
Naked. Without that which we cling to, we lay bare to the fear that we are, perhaps, worth very little. Worthless. Nothing.
Maybe this is the lie trapping that young man who wants to know Jesus but when asked to part from his wealth and follow Jesus, he walks away, sad. This rich young ruler is the one from whom the previous post draws inspiration, and the one whom continues to demand my reflection, my intrigue, my empathy, my anger.
What is going on in the rich young ruler’s heart that will not allow him to let go? Following the deepest, most pure, desire of his heart, he eagerly finds Jesus one day. Yet, he turns away, sad, unable! Why!? How can it be so utterly hard to follow you, Lord? It angers me that this man must turn and leave. Leave sad.
Some read this and see a selfish man.
So why does my heart ache this time around?
It’s because I know this struggle. I see it often. In myself, in the ones I love. And I cry out NO! DON’T WALK AWAY SAD! NO! I want him to know that even after he’s let go of that in which he has invested his entire life; he remains beloved. I wonder what his real name was. My heart is sad.
What do we do? How do we respond to those searching friends who want more than the ups and downs of their performance highs and lows but cannot imagine their worth without it? How do we work against the give-and-take, work-to-get mentality that is so engrained in our fabric?
I have no choice I guess. Like Jesus who challenges the rich young ruler to go sell EVERYTHING and follow Him, I must challenge myself and others to let go of ALL the stuff, the things, the people who control our sense of value. Only once we are free from the lie that we are what we produce; only after we escape that trap fully, will we ever truly find the most unfounded, radical joy and freedom to be, just be, secure and known in Christ.
Religion tells us that we do good to receive. But the gospel tells us to receive so we can do. We are worthy, loved and fulfilled before, despite and without doing anything! Can you handle that reality? Can I? Who get’s the glory if I don’t do anything to earn it? Maybe we are too hungry for glory to live in a reality where we do not earn love, value and freedom but attribute those moments of happiness, breakthrough, love, peace, power, generosity, fulfillment all to the grace of God.
Every athlete has had disdain for the teammate who does no work yet receives all the glory. Every athlete has hated their sport when they work tirelessly yet receive no payment, no glory. We cannot handle it when the do-to-get contract breaks down. And so we live, rashly pressing forward, earning our worth each day, working out our sense of value with each human interaction.
My sadness for the rich young ruler and all of us, as we face the fear of who we are without everything external, is, perhaps, a bit relieved when I realize, “maybe this man got exactly what he wanted and needed!” The hard lesson is sometimes critical: sometimes saves our lives. He leaves sad. And maybe he needed to know that feeling.
This is a high call. We can go half way, yes, but to TRULY LIVE we must die; to truly know who we are we must stop hiding in our riches. To find freedom we must sell all we own and follow Him. To find joy we must stop being satisfied with fleeting happiness.
To follow Jesus we must let go, encounter who we are without, and discover ourselves anew in the light of Christ.
Who are you if you give it all away?