Life doesn’t move in straight lines. From the undulations of swollen rivers to the wrinkles and furrows of the earth’s face, life takes its time, scraping, pushing and moving into the shapes it’s been given. We’re like this too, rarely growing in one direction before we branch out in another, all the while brushing and bristling against our neighbors, our family, and our friends.
It’s these scrapes and collisions that most of us try to guard against as we move through our lives. So, we build a retaining wall here, dig out a trench there, and hold on too tightly in hopes we won’t be bruised too much. It‘s through this self-preservation that we begin to shut ourselves off from the beauty and the growth that comes from life’s tremors and earthquakes.
There is risk in that growth, to be sure. There always is. Jesus knew this, that’s why He said that those who hold on tightly to their lives lose them. This, of course, is a subtle truth, not just for eternity, but for all of life. When we grasp and clutch at our lives, looking to horde and save all we have, we stand in the position to lose everything.
Nowhere is this more evident than in interpersonal relationships. We notice that those who hold on the tightest to their friends, their children, or their spouses are not only at risk of losing the richness that comes with unforced relationships, but are at risk of losing the relationships entirely. A friend forced to be a friend is not a friend. In gripping too tightly, we lose the key to our growth and maturity: the freedom to choose the unselfish path, where we are trusting and open with one another and with God.
Of course the unselfish path, the place of losing one’s life, is risky. It will be filled with scrapes and collisions. It will be subject to floods and droughts. But it will lead to a far more beautiful and abundant plain filled with the “milk and honey” of God’s blessing. So, let us decide, once and for all, to choose not to save our lives, but to give them away; to not horde up the grace we’ve been given, but to pass it along; to not control those around us, but to serve them with humility, devoid of our shallow manipulations. Let us risk, so we might grasp the life Jesus has for us, and for those around us. Then, maybe then, we can be called sons and daughters of the Most High, scrapes and all.
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