And as he was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him and asked him, "Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?" And Jesus said to him, "Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. You know the commandments: 'Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.'" And he said to him, "Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth." And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, "You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me." Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. (Mark 10:17-22, ESV)
If I am learning anything during this Lenten sojourn of mine, it can be summed up in this statement - it is not now nor has it ever been about me, my stuff, or what I can do. And, in a somewhat paradoxical statement, God's focus is entirely and specifically on me. Thinking of it that way is a bit unsettling because, like most of us, I really don't think about God loving and pursuing me in that intense way, as if I were the only one out there. Circling back to realize He does this out of His love rather than something I do just makes my head spin. But that is the way it is happening and always has happened.
The man running up to Jesus in the passage above might have been counted among the religious. Based on his own statements, he was schooled in the Law from his youth and had worked hard to keep all the commandments (or at least the ones Jesus' quoted to him). Yet he realized this Rabbi was offering something else that he didn't quite feel like he could grasp. And, learning the price of a true relationship, he walked away shaking his head. He would stick to his religiosity instead of committing to the relationship offered.
Watchman Nee, in his book Breaking of the Spirit, talks about the story of the nard inside an alabaster box. As only Nee can do, he speaks of that box being our humanity - our outer shell - that needs to be broken so that God's Spirit can flow through us. The trouble is that so many of us, in our myopic vision of what we bring to the exchange, value the intact box more than what is inside. We become, as Nee says, "antique collectors" and treasure the box too highly. Sadly, it is only when we let go of our things and our identity that we truly understand the depth of the relationship God invites us to have with Him. Treasuring our alabaster box, we miss out greatly.
As my travel on the Crooked Path continues through Lent, I am reminded of how little depends on me and what I bring, do, or say. It strengthens my resolve while humbling my spirit again in seeing that I must decrease so that He will increase through me and within me. It isn't about me - it never was. And yet He pursues me to the ends of the earth if necessary. How can I possibly keep anything back when He gives so much?