A couple of days ago, I had a bad experience with some old weed killer and pesticide that I happened to be transporting to the dump. They oozed out of their containers, filling the car with noxious gas. I wound up with a blinding headache and weakness of limbs. It took me several hours to recover, time during which my plans and obligations for the morning went by the wayside. I simply could not carry them out.
“This happens sometimes. And, it is always very unnerving to be disconnected from the way I think my life ought to go. What I do, the promises I keep, my work, my vacation plans, the well-being of my relationships — all these things are part of what defines me. Without them, I feel an emotional free fall. This unmooring is the definition of emotional crisis. Fortunately this incident was short lived.
But, it got me thinking in a new way about Jesus’ request of the wealthy young man who came to him seeking eternal life. Jesus asked of this fellow not simply that he let go of possessions he was clutching too tightly. He asked the man to let go of his identity, his way of understanding himself, his relationships — all those little things that defined him. He asked this young man to enter willingly an emotional free fall, a crisis. “Give all your possessions to the poor” — who will not be able to reciprocate — “and come and follow me.” Leave behind friends and family, your station in life, your many privileges and everything else that mirrors you to yourself.
Who am I alone in the dark — unmoored from the web of obligations, hopes, plans, judgments, and ideas about who I am? When I am not resting on achievements or failures, not somebody’s wife, mother, guide, friend or employee, who am I? Who is with me in that place of crisis, always with me, nearer than my next breath?
Could it be letting go in this way is the gateway to eternal life?