I have a healthy fear of losing things. My wedding ring, my children, my mind – these things are all things that I hold onto at least mentally, making sure that I know where each of my valued items is all the time.
My mind is the one I’ve got the least handle on.
I'm very cavalier about getting rid of things, knowing that we have far more than we could ever use. I am no saver, and sell stuff at garage sales prematurely, thinking that I will never use it again, only to buy that same item new later. It drives my family crazy, and if they lose something, they assume that I sold it, gave it away, or threw it in the trash.
They’re usually correct.
I do hang on tightly to the things I value, however, and rarely lose anything – because I keep tabs on it.
The underlying issue for why I want to control my surroundings all the time by knowing where each item I have lives is the fear of change. I’ve written about his before, that growing and changing is hard work – sometimes I’d rather watch the world go on changing from my comfy spot on the couch. I don’t always want to be a part of change. I’m fine right here. It’s getting worse as I get older. My roots are becoming firmly planted in this little box I constructed.
I think a lot of people are that way. We work hard to create a life we love, and when things veer off in a different direction than we planned, when a wayward wrench is tossed into our gears, we feel out of control. Nobody likes that feeling. Each of us is the chief operator of our own efficient machine, and when it breaks down, we want to fix it.
But someday, we will lose a part of our machine, and it will stop working. That’s just life. I may lose my wedding ring, my children, my mind. All of these are terrible things to think about, but our world is one in which terrible things can happen. None of us is guaranteed a comfy spot on the couch. We can’t keep tabs on everything, all the time.
Jesus said “For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it” (Luke 9: 24, NJKV). This upside down idea, to give away our lives for the sake of preserving it, goes against my grain. Losing myself and the unknown changes that will come makes me afraid to leap blindly into the arms of Jesus. I hold back.
The promise is that we will each become more of ourselves if we throw ourselves into the path of God’s love, that when we hold nothing back from his work in us, we will become more of who we are than any well-tuned machine we have designed, any organized mess we have created. We will become the fullness of who God intends us to be, not some compilation of scraps the world has to offer, gapping at the seams and of a personality that is ill-fitting and uncomfortable when the world’s tides change.
When I lose myself – my whole life – to Christ, I am free to be fully me, strong enough to “take up [my] cross daily” (v.23) with his help. No amount of organization or fine-tuning I do approaches this achievement. Saving things doesn’t make me strong. Trusting God does.
When I see the logic of losing my life to gain it all back, it seems easy – and the right thing – to do. But like anything, life is a work in progress. I’d like to think that today I’m one step closer to giving it all up for the sake of Jesus, that soon I will fling myself at the base of the cross and pray for him to take my life. That the first day of a pure life lived only for God is only breaths away.
But still. I hold back.
Yet God is working on me.
Then he said to the crowd, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross daily, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it. And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but are yourself lost or destroyed? If anyone is ashamed of me and my message, the Son of Man will be ashamed of that person when he returns in his glory and in the glory of the Father and the holy angels. I tell you the truth, some standing here right now will not die before they see the Kingdom of God.” Luke 4: 23-27 (NLT)