Robert was a young man who liked to be complimented. And although he would never admit it, he would be inwardly disappointed if he didn’t receive some type of affirmation. He didn’t realize how much he depended on this. Part of the reason for it was because he was a perfectionist, and because he wanted people to like him. Robert also wanted everything in his life to have its proper place. He wanted things to be “orderly” and sometimes he would even try to put people in their proper place too—-at least as he saw it. Robert felt that to keep order around him was a way to control his life, and others as well.
But, like everyone else, Robert had to face suffering in his life, along with disappointments and challenges. And when these occurred he would start to unravel. Robert would try to pray in these circumstances, but usually that time was spent, not really in prayer, but in thinking through the situation and trying, either to reassure himself that everything would turn out alright, or finding a solution. He would say the words, “Oh, Lord please help me” but he didn’t really think that Christ was going to do anything for him. He thought he had to rely on himself. And because of this he usually stayed “stuck” on himself and his problem. This outlook usually lead to more uneasiness and fear. Robert would say that he needed to rely on God, but he didn’t believe it. He relied on his perfectionist self rather than on Christ.
I mention a person like Robert because of the rich young man in Mark’s Gospel. I’m sure that Jesus’ response to the young man’s seemingly “correct” answer was unsettling for him: “You are lacking in one thing. Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” And then it says: “At that statement his face fell, and he went away sad, for he had many possessions.” For a person used to relying on self, as I think this young man was, he was not about to disturb his life and follow someone else.
Today, we are challenged to see reality with the eyes of faith and not be confined to just human wisdom and security. But we are constantly being tempted to judge all reality by appearances or our own criteria. This makes us incapable of entering into God’s wisdom and discerning his action. The result is that we are worried and forever discouraged. Instead of taking God’s promises seriously, we prefer to trust in ourselves and our limited perceptions of the world.
Perhaps the greatest “possession” that became an obstacle to the rich young man (and Robert in the story) was their insistence on relying on self and being afraid to rely on God. And maybe that’s the way it is with you and me. We say we believe, but there’s something inside ourselves that makes us afraid to let go. But what is it we’re holding on to? Sometimes we don’t even know! Could it be our pride? Or our insistence on control? Or maybe it’s our fear (just because we don’t know any better; we don’t know any other way!)
Our purpose is not to walk away sad (as the rich young man did). Our purpose is to serve the Lord with confidence and be good to our neighbor. So, don’t hold back on Christ. Don’t get lost in yourself. Rely on Christ and walk through life, not sad, but in joy and peace.