Mark 10:17 (NIV)
I just want you to respect me.
We sat in the hospital lounge that warm summer afternoon several years ago longing to help our father understand why he was hospitalized. Months earlier, his doctor gave him a very discouraging diagnosis--early stage of Alzheimer's. Because of his increasingly erratic behavior, we sought out additional medical help.
Exasperated with our conversation, he finally uttered, "I just want you to respect me."
Goodness. We thought we were. To better understand our dad's frustrations, we asked him to describe what respect looked like to him. His words hit our hearts like the gut-wrenching force of a heavyweight boxer's punch to an opponent's stomach. "I want to run the farm and drive the tractor," he replied.
My daddy was born on the farm that he worked his entire life. Restricting him from operating machinery or working in the field would be akin to John Wayne starring in an action-packed western movie, minus a horse. Unthinkable, at best.
We knew we couldn't honor our father's request, at least not as he described respect. He demonstrated he wasn't able to operate machinery safely. We simply couldn't connect our dad's definition with the reality of his situation.
I remembered this incident with my father as I read Mark 10:17-31. Jesus was on His way to Jerusalem. A rich, young man ran up to Jesus, fell on his knees, and asked what he must do to inherit eternal life. Attempting to help the young man recognize that his only hope was total reliance on God, Jesus stated a list of commandments. The man insisted he kept all of them since youth. Jesus looked at him, loved him, and said, "One thing you lack. Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor...then follow me."
The young man's question presents a disconnect--what must I do to inherit eternal life? The question is illogical. It can't be answered because what is asked is an impossibility.
Substitute any item for "eternal life" in the question. What must I do to inherit my parents' estate? What must I do to inherit my grandmother's pearls? What must I do to inherit my partner's share of the business?
How would you answer such questions? Be a good daughter. Be a kind and generous granddaughter. Be wise, trustworthy. All good, even typical, answers.
The real issue with the man's question is that no one can do anything to inherit something. Inheritance is a matter of dependence upon someone else's action, not self-reliance. The original owner has to give something to us. We need a status bestowed upon us.
If our parents, grandmother, or partner don't ensure that our name is listed in their will, it doesn't matter if we're a daughter, a good grandchild, or a fair business partner. No matter how hard we try, to inherit something, we have to be the beneficiary of another's actions.
Jesus loves the young man. He speaks directly to what is holding the man back. To inherit eternal life, Jesus tells him to leave behind everything in which he finds security; and follow Jesus.
We who believe in Jesus and follow Him will have a great treasure in heaven. However, it doesn't come as a result of our effort. It's what Jesus chooses to give us and is a matter of reliance upon Him.
My daddy came home from the hospital, but he never drove a tractor again. Later, he lost his balance, fell, and landed on the kitchen floor breaking his leg. He died as a result of complications from surgery.
He was a hard-working farmer, a steadfast provider, and a faithful husband of 53 years to our mother. Called to be Jesus' child and believing Jesus' words and work, however, my father received his heavenly inheritance because he depended on Jesus Christ.
Friend, are you experiencing a disconnect in your life? Would you ask Jesus to help you connect with the reality of His truth? Your eternity depends on it.
Blessings, dear friend.
PS Are you having to leave behind an aging loved one as you move? You can find encouragement and support on Focus on the Family Life Challenges website.