For as long as I can remember I’ve had one big problem. A deficiency you might say. A lack of ability in a critical area of life.
I can’t buy clothes that match.
In high school, I actually won (a term that I use loosely) a “mix and match” award for my ability to consistently pair stripes with polka dots in color combinations rarely seen.
Recognizing my problem, as an adult I began to wear solid colors and a great deal of black (which I maintain matches everything.) And then a few years later I arrived at, what I considered, the perfect solution. I would go to the mall and buy whatever the mannequins were wearing. Someone else (presumably with more fashion sense than myself) had already chosen the best shirt/pants combination. Overnight I became fashionable, wearing the latest styles in colors pleasing to the eye.
Until recently, when I went to a department store not to be named (JCPenny) to pick out some casual, fall clothing. You know, something less dressy that work attire but more dressy than a T-shirt? And I found some great things. On sale even. But there was an issue.
The mannequins had no shoes.
Most of the time our decisions are simple aren’t they?
What movie to watch,
what to have for dinner,
what shoes to wear.
But often our decisions are big and they’re scary and they’re consequential.
Where to live,
what job to take,
who to marry.
We seek guidance from friends, family, trusted advisers, tea leaves, fortune cookies…and sometimes even God.
Just go to the Christian bookstore, or simply do a quick Google search. You’ll find terms like “5 steps” or “7 keys” to hearing God’s voice and learning His will.
Because we all want to know that the voice in our head telling us to move to Montana or purchase brown loafers is authentic and true.
We want things to have purpose. We need things to have meaning. Prayer, seeking Godly counsel, reading scripture (spoiler alert: these are 3 of the “7 keys”) these are all good things.
But sometimes I wonder, are we even asking the right questions?
Do we really want to know where to live, what to do, and who to be with? Or are we really asking, will this place fulfill me, will this job sustain me, will this person love me?
In his time on Earth, Jesus was asked many questions. One in particular came from a rich young ruler.
And behold, a man came up to him, saying, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” And he said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you would enter life, keep the commandments.” He said to him, “Which ones?” And Jesus said, “You shall not murder, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother, and, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” The young man said to him, “All these I have kept. What do I still lack?” Jesus said to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.
And Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly, I say to you, only with difficulty will a rich person enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished, saying, “Who then can be saved?” 26 But Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
Most often this story is interpreted from the perspective that the rich young ruler was placing money above God. And that may very well be true. But what if Jesus had something even more radical in mind? What if He was challenging our entire worldview?
The questions the man asked to Jesus implied there was something he could do to gain eternal life. At an even more basic level, they assumed a cause and effect. Don’t we still view things that way?
If I do this, if I say this, if I go there, then that will happen.
What if the rich young ruler’s greatest sin wasn’t the love of money after all? What if it was his need for control? To control the outcome, to control life, to control God?
You see, his questions assumed that there was something he could do to gain eternal life. But for Jesus, the Kingdom of God wasn’t something to be gained in the future. It was something to be experienced. Right here, right now.
Jesus speaks of living water gushing up to eternal life. The water is a gift. Freely given. Like a mustard seed, starting small but becoming so much greater.
As He would later tell his disciples:
“For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.”
For Jesus, the answer wasn’t to act a certain way, say a certain thing, go somewhere or do something. It wasn’t about cause and effect at all. It was to simply let go…
…of our need for control.
…of our belief that we can earn it.
…of our expectation this always leads to that.
For by losing it, we will find it.
With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.
Even if the mannequins have no shoes.