Reading the story of the “rich young man” this morning could not help but bring to mind one of those occasions when God spoke audibly to me within my mind. I was in the midst of a conversation with my wife, on a totally unrelated topic, when all went silent and I heard very simply “…and the rich young man walked away sadly for he had much anger.”
Totally out of the blue and unexpected. I gave it some thought for a couple minutes and then told my wife and we discussed its clear implications for me.
What became clear is that it is ANY “possession” that we don’t want to turn loose of that is our individual stumbling block and “idol”. For me, and I’m sure for others, that stumbling block was my “righteous anger” which supported my “right” to “victimhood”. It allowed my ego to demand respect and to be catered to because of the abysmal way I had been treated through the years. And there is a perverse pleasure in clinging to that pain for some reason, rather than shouldering the reality of that cross and moving on. :o
I still deal with that at times, in the form of psychological “triggers” that subconsciously turn “now” into some repeat of “then”, some particularly painful event or treatment in the past that seems to be repeating now. Usually over time though I will be able to recognize it for that and set aside the anger. In my better moments I will also be able to go back and try to reconcile with anyone I might have hurt while in that state. Not always, but more than I used to even be able to consider.
But mostly, I don’t allow myself to become discouraged by it anymore, recognizing what is going on and that it is just my own feeble human-ness at work. These words from the Word Among Us meditation helped to remind me of that wau.org/meditations/current/ :
But when Jesus told him to sell his possessions, give to the poor, and follow him, the man went away sad. We might conclude that he was sad because he simply couldn’t give it up and follow Jesus. But perhaps we are jumping to conclusions. Maybe he was sad because he knew how hard it would be to take this final step. Maybe he foresaw the struggle that lay ahead, and the thought of another struggle was sobering. But that doesn’t mean he walked away from it. For all we know, he drew another deep breath, set his mind and will to the task, and came through victorious.
Why this speculation? Because a little sadness isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Don’t worry if the call seems hard at times. And by all means, don’t discount yourself if you find that you don’t want to give up everything for Jesus. For one thing, you are in very good company. So take heart and persevere. Trust that when Jesus does win out, you’ll be far happier than you ever were before.
There are days when I still walk away sadly on this one and just feel it is too hard. Fortunately, like the Footprints prayer, I can usually look back and realize that at those times I was being carried.