What are you looking for? What are your hopes for your family and for Baltimore? What is God opening up in you?
A young ruler runs up to Jesus and says, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” If I want to live authentically, he wonders, what do I have to change? At first Jesus discusses the ethical demands of the law: don’t murder, don’t betray your spouse, don’t lie, don’t steal, take care of your parents. And the man of means responds, “Teacher, I have followed these rules since my youth… I want more.” At this point, Jesus looks at him and loves him, the story says, which catches my attention. What’s happened within the fellow to bring him to this point, and why don’t his clothes seems to fit anymore? So like a doctor making a diagnosis, Jesus listens deeply to him to see what the matter is, and how he might help him to be whole.
The implication is that this beautiful person, as well turned out as any high school “Big Man on Campus,” as any young woman climbing the rungs of Wall Street, as any senior counsel of the law firm, as any non-profit board chair, or attending physician or team captain or school head or vestry member or president or priest is as wounded as the next person, as likely to need help as someone more obviously broken, as deserving of God’s grace. The man in the story is us, and Jesus loves him, not because of what he has, but because he presents his honest struggle… his need, his lack, his longing, his humility, his pain, his hunger, his willingness to be confronted by how he needs to grow. The fellow wakes up to the ways that he’s not satisfied—with himself or with life, and probably some of both—and his desire to start living in a new way.
Jesus instructs the man to give away all that he has, and not surprisingly, he balks. If I were him, I’d begin to bargain: “Would half be enough, Jesus? What if I started with the things I don’t need anymore, or the things I don’t like? What about two-thirds? I’ve worked hard to get what I have. Did you say to give it all up?”
This encounter with Jesus is a story about possessions, for sure, but more than that it is about losing what is false and finding what is real. Jesus might have said to the fellow, “Don’t worry about what you have or what you will inherit in heaven: focus on today and on people. That’s where your true treasure is found.” Hidden just below the surface of everyday life is a world of people with broken hearts and terrors in the night… folks whose relationships are rocky, whose children are in trouble, whose jobs are overwhelming, or unfulfilling, or about to be taken away, whose future looks bleak. They are sick, some of them, or scared to face the truth, hungry for food or meaning, worried about change or losing someone, or grieving such a loss. Focus on people and their needs, and you’ll find the kingdom.
Mostly we keep our wounds to ourselves, the way our parents taught us or our coaches expected. If we cry, it’s into our pillows at night or in the car alone, driving down the highway. Stiff upper lips are a badge of honor. But what if for a change we let God into our losses, and let God find us in the dark, or in the deep water, or where we feel most alone? What if we let God into whatever might be dying in us, so that we can rise and finally live for others, and not only for ourselves? Because when we seek out those whom the world has ground up or lost, Jesus says, we will find ourselves and God.
Will you go out searching with me?