About 15 years ago, a friend of mine asked if I wanted to train for a ½ marathon. And because I sometimes make bad choices, I said yes.
After training for a month, the day came to do an 8-mile run. Due to bad weather, I had to run inside in the university gym. That’s when I realized how badly our gym was designed.
The treadmills were pushed right up against the wall. Instead of a nice big TV screen or even a mural I found myself staring at a wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling mirror. To add to insult: the insult of staring at my face and watching myself run (for 8 miles!), I forgot my music.
8 miles of silence.
Two weeks later, my training friends and I went out to a forest to do our 10-mile run – the longest run we would do before the race. As you might expect, the trail in the forest was altogether different. And so is discipleship. You don’t always know what is around the corner but you know whom you are following. Christ alone is your goal.
A young man the apostle Mark calls a “rich young ruler” was a man in training. His was a spiritual pursuit and not a physical one. He was running after truth. And so when he meets Jesus, he begs the question everyone was (and still are) asking: “How do I inherit eternal life?”
There was a complication with Jesus’ answer. Although the young man knew how to be good, how to follow the law and keep the commandments, Jesus asked him to give up the ultimate thing in his hand. Which in this case, was abundant wealth.
He was like a man stuck on a treadmill in front of a mirror. Jesus’ answer was compelling, but he asked too much.
Sometimes I think people view discipleship as a mental assent to philosophical truth. I hear the questions: “What will it mean to say yes and follow Jesus? What will that look like in my life?”
Following Jesus, saying yes, will be an experience rooted in reality because Jesus is a realist. He asks for all of you. Yet, when you give him all, you get the most important things thrown in: love, peace, joy, and trust.
Don’t be deceived: there will be sacrifice. Jesus will ask if you are willing to let go of the thing in your hand. Your willingness to subtract self-salvation will mean letting go of that “shot of poison” you take to help you “get through” and “get by”. However, on the other side of the equation of discipleship you find that simple practices, like prayer, will start to build a new life that gives you far more sustenance than trying to will yourself forward.
Moral of the story? Don’t make poor choices. Let go of the thing in your hand and trust Jesus.