I've been thinking a lot about the story of the rich young ruler lately (you can read it here, here, and here). More pointedly, you could say that the story of the rich young ruler has been kicking my ass, repeatedly and mercilessly, for the last week.
For those of you unfamiliar with the story and too lazy to read it at one of the three places I linked to, the TL/DR version is this:
Rich guy asks Jesus what he needs to do to be saved
Jesus tells him what he wants to hear at first
Rich guy says yeah, yeah, yeah, I'm doing all that already, what else?
Jesus says, stop being a rich guy
Rich guy walks away sad
End of story.
Specifically, when faced with Christ's directive, "...the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth." (Mark 10:22) He was willing to do anything but that one thing, and that one thing was what Christ asked of him.
I read that story for the first time in a long time last week, and my initial reaction was to sit in a place of judgment, chastising the rich young ruler in my head for be so selfish, so short-sighted as to pass up an opportunity like that for something as fleeting as wealth.
(I think we can see where this is going.)
Pride comes before a fall, right? But not just any fall, we're talking about walking-across-a-stage-to-accept-an-award-in-front-of-a-thousand-people-and-tripping-over-a-mic-cable-and-falling-face-first-off-of-the-stage-and-landing-in-the-orchestra-pit-and-getting-a-cello-bow-prostate-check-type-fall.
Sorry for the visual.
As I stewed on the story of the rich young ruler, I avoided the obvious conclusion. I avoided it like my 2 y/o avoids going to bed or sitting still. I pushed it to the back of my mind and buried it under a mountain of self-righteous rationalizations that said:
I was better than him.
I had to be superior to this cautionary tale of a man, or at least I needed to believe that I was. I held on to that belief like a fat kid did cake (and I can say that, because I was a fat kid, and I LOVED me some cake), but deep down, I knew the truth. That still small voice was a thousand thunderclaps inside my head, and I shuddered at each syllable.
He is me.
How many times have I searched the scriptures looking for another way, any other way? How many times have I dropped my shoulders, turned my head from the face of love and gone back to a life that I wasn't willing to give up? How many times have I said "I'll do anything but that"? How long have I been walking in the wrong direction, shoulders hunched in despair as I walk away from the Answer I was looking for? I don't have just one thing that I need to give up, I've got a lot of them, but the root of all of them is the same.
I need to give up thinking I can do it by myself.
So I'll just keep praying the only thing I know to pray:
Jesus, I can't. Help...please.