Friday, September 16, 2011

On The Rich Young Ruler, and How He Is Me.

So @WritingJoy who writes at the appropriately named Joy in this Journey (which you should read, because it is an incredible and honest story of love, grace, and joy in the midst of the messiness of life and grief) asked the twitterverse to be honest about their weaknesses in her #lifeunmaksed series.  The posts that resulted were both devastatingly honest and incredibly inspiring, but I did notice, rather unsurprisingly in light of the request to actually be vulnerable and honest, a marked lack of dudes.  So, in the interest of diversity, here's my submission, my life, unmasked.

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.

I was better than him.
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.


  1. I think that's the best prayer. Maybe the only prayer. Reminds me of the Jesus prayer: "Jesus, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner."

  2. WOW!! This is awesome! I like you a lot. I just kind of follow Joy all over the web (not like a stalker or anything...), so I stumbled upon your writing. Luke, we have a lot to talk about. Anyway, I would have been right there with you to answer Joy's call to get vulnerable, except this is my busy time of year. Thanks for representing all of us "dudes" so well! If you are willing, I'd love for you to guest post on my blog sometime!

    Keep going after Jesus. He's gotcha.

  3. @Joy Thanks for stopping by, and thanks for letting me crash your party. :)

  4. @Bill SergottThanks for the kind words, Bill. I could certainly guest post for you some time. Shoot me a DM on twitter @lukeharms sometime and we can talk about it.


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