My husband likes to accuse me of regularly losing things. I prefer to use the term misplace. I set my things in one location, and then I forget which location that was...and then I search around until either my memory returns or the items appear. And they (almost) always appear, which means that I didn't actually lose them.
For something to truly be lost, I would have to be permanently deprived of it - cease to have or retain it. And usually, if the item is important or necessary enough, I take the time and trouble to make sure I don't lose it. I hold on to the things I need, like my keys, my wallet, my smart phone.
But this Lent, I have been meditating more on those "things I need" and how I hold on to them. I have been freshly challenged by the shocking declaration that Jesus made to people who wanted to follow him:
“If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you lose your life for my sake, you will save it. And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul?"
LOSE my LIFE?!? Be permanently deprived of it - cease to have - cease to retain it? On purpose? What on earth does that mean? And WHY would I ever do that?
What's interesting about these words from Jesus is that he is actually playing into our own self interest. He knows that we want to hold onto our lives, that we care about our own self-preservation. So he doesn't just say, if you want to follow me, you have to be willing to suffer (my paraphrase of his first sentence). Who would ever say, "stop thinking about myself? head straight to an excruciating death sentence? YEAH! sign me up for that!"?
Instead, he says - following me means suffering. Now. But if you are willing to face that, if you can give up your physical life, then you will gain eternal life. And what is more valuable than that? Jesus was saying these words not just to us, but to himself, for he knew exactly what he was doing on earth and where he was headed. He was reminding himself - and us - that suffering comes before glory.
He encourages me to lose my life and not be worried about the loss, for any trouble that's caused by letting go of my life is light and momentary, and produces for me an eternal weight of glory FAR beyond all comparison. Jesus both taught and modeled that I should not look at [strive for] the things I can see, but instead, at the things I cannot (yet) see. For the things right in front of me are temporal [transient, here-today-gone-tomorrow], but the things which I have not yet seen are eternal [will last forever].
This Lent, I am asking myself: have I truly lost my life?
* do I try to control my day, my money, my time - or do I freely give it away?
* do I make choices that take care of me - or do I look out for others first?
* do I complain when things don't go my way - or am I thankful for the opportunity to make sacrifices?
* am I trying to hang on to my life - or can I give it up so Jesus can lead?
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What about you? How do you respond to Jesus' words? What does "losing your life" mean to you?