Recently I was in adoration and opened my Bible to the story of the Rich Young Man.
“As he was setting out on a journey, a man ran up and knelt before him, and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; You shall not defraud; Honor your father and mother.’”He said to him, “Teacher, I have kept all these since my youth.”Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said, “You lack one thing; go, sell what you have, and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” At that saying his countenance fell, and he went away sorrowful; for he had great possessions.” Mark 10:17-22
“Jesus, looking upon Him, loved him.”
I was trying to imagine what that “look” must have been like. Can you imagine the depth of Jesus’ eye contact? Was there a gentleness in Jesus’ eyes and face? Was there a small smile on his lips? Did Jesus reach out and touch the rich young man warmly on his shoulder?
What Jesus tells the rich young man after that loving look isn’t what he expects to hear: “At that saying his countenance fell, and he went away sorrowful.” The NSRV version translates that sentence as “When he heard this he was shocked and went away grieving.” I wonder what the young man was looking for when he went to see Jesus? Was he just looking for approval or affirmation that he was “good” and what he was doing was “enough”? Whenever I hear or read this passage it always leaves me feeling a little sad. That rich young man had such an amazing personal encounter with Jesus, and yet he went away sorrowful.
I wonder what happened to this rich young man. Even though he didn’t receive the response he wanted, he still had an encounter with Jesus. No encounter with Jesus leaves us unchanged. He thought he was doing pretty well. The man had a relationship with God. He was a good Jew. He attempted to get closer to Jesus And Jesus loved him. He loved that man enough to want him to grow closer and go deeper. Jesus exposed the young man’s weakness.
There are lots of times that I am like that rich young man, (minus the “rich”), in my attitude towards God. Just like that rich young man, part of me reaches out and tells Jesus, “I love you”…but I still hold onto my own perfectionism and my own way of doing things. It’s not easy to admit that my trust has limits. Even though I desire to give much of my life over to God, I’m still grasping to control parts of it.
I trust….but not completely.
God exposes my weakness. He has shown me that I have placed limits on His omnipotence. I have a broken understanding of God. I believe on some level that there is only so much help, so much love, so many times that He will touch my heart deeply. I have put limits on His love and favor, as if His graces for me are filled in a jar that needs to last my whole life and every time a prayer is answered, big or small, I use up some of that grace. But that’s not how God works. I know that in my head, but somehow that truth has not made it to my heart. There is a disconnect.
I often find myself trying to micromanage God. I bring what’s on my heart to prayer, but at the same time I’m trying to tell Him how to bring about the outcome that I want. I might even try and tell Him the steps to get to that preferred outcome. I somehow think that He needs my suggestions. I think He might miss an important detail.
In reality, I’m just afraid that God won’t give me what I want in the way that I want it so I try to “help” him. That is definitely not trust.
Even though the rich young man went away sorrowful, he had a choice of what to do with that encounter with God. I like to think that he went home and wrestled with his issue of over attachment and wanting to control his physical possessions. That young man received an invitation to go deeper, but he had to work through the weakness Jesus exposed. That takes time, effort and grace.
One thing I don’t struggle with is believing in the infinite mercy of God. He does not grow tired of us in our struggles. He waits for us to take those baby steps that will bring us closer to Him and will bring our lives closer to His plan for us. He is always there to pick us up when we fall again and again…(and again)…and gives us unlimited opportunities to begin again.
Our faith is a lifelong journey towards a home that is not on this Earth. As long as our hearts beat, we will always be growing and changing.
Where is God inviting you to go deeper this summer?
Michelle Hamel is a cradle Catholic who tries to keep up with the chaos of raising eight kids with her high school sweetheart. She spends her days trying to make sure everyone feels loved and squeezing in adoration visits. She blogs about faith and family at Normal Chaos.