Matthew 19:16-22 Just then a man came up to Jesus and asked, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?” “Why do you ask me about what is good?” Jesus replied. “There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, keep the commandments.” “Which ones?” he inquired. Jesus replied, “‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, honor your father and mother,’ and ‘love your neighbor as yourself.’” “All these I have kept,” the young man said. “What do I still lack?” Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth.
The hardest thing is letting go.
“Let go!” The monkey bars were high and his little body hung from arms outstretched, little hands clinging to the red bar above his head. The fall was about five feet from his toes to the ground—a scary distance to fall for a four year old. It was apparent he wasn’t going to make it all the way across the bars this time, but there he was, frozen midair, clutching the bar he knew for the last three minutes, holding on for dear life. “Let go!” I watched his dad stand underneath the frozen child, arms outstretched, ready for a catch. But the dude wasn’t about to pull his boy off the bar; he was waiting for him to do the trick , make the choice, and let go. And finally, he did. As I ran past, I saw the little guy’s face turn suddenly from grimace into a smile. Letting go put him in a place he never expected to be while he was holding on—his father’s arms.
Not every encounter with Jesus is a miracle or story that leaves us smiling. The story of Jesus’ encounter with the rich young ruler is a story that should send shivers down our spine. It’s a story of possibly the hardest decision most of us will ever face. The story starts with this rich guy approaching Jesus like many of us approach Jesus—in search of something more in life. He’s done lots of good things and he’s apparently a good person, as revealed when he shows off his perfect report card of commandment obedience. But even though he seems to have everything, he still has a sense he is missing something. So he pushes Jesus further, to the point that Jesus has no choice but to figuratively hit the dude in the stomach. “Can you let go of what you have and follow me?” Jesus says in not so many words. The young man wasn’t expecting that. It was easier to do another good work, to add Jesus to the plethora of good things he had. But let go? It was just too hard.
We all have different things we cling to that cause us to cringe when we realize they’re getting in the way of following Jesus. Like the rich young ruler, for some of us it’s the stuff we acquire, but for others of us it’s having a picture-perfect body or family. For some of us it’s being in charge or having power over others, while for others of us it’s resentment and victimhood that we hold onto. For some of us it’s a relationship we know is toxic or an expectation our life isn’t meeting. But no matter what it is, it’s so very difficult to let go. Letting go means we are giving up our feeble attempt at being in control of our lives. It means releasing what we own, our goals, our expectations, and our future into God’s hands, where things most likely will change and be different than when they were in ours. It means leaving behind what we have known and the comfort and pain and emotions we have become so accustomed to.
But there, Jesus opens his arms to offer us a freedom we were never able to experience while we were holding on.
And he takes us to a place we’ve never been.
On Today's Road: What does Jesus need you to let go of that you have you been refusing to let go? What is one concrete step you can take to begin releasing your grip and opening yourself to where Jesus wants to take you?