“I’m going to lose my goggles so I can find them!”
We were taking a three day family vacation at an indoor pool complex in Slovenia when my oldest son Enoh unknowingly contextualized one of Jesus’ sayings. I thought about following up his remark with a conversation about Jesus but as soon as I saw him throw his goggles in the air and turn around with his eyes closed, I realized I was the one receiving the lesson.
Usually we talk about the act of losing something as a mistake. When we lose our keys, phone, or glasses it’s always a matter of misplacing something or forgetting where we put them. But here Enoh was making a conscious effort to lose his goggles. And not only that, he was trying to lose the one thing that would normally be most helpful in finding something lost at the bottom of a pool.
Did my seven year old just help me understand the Bible?
Jesus’ words as recorded in Matthew 16 are about making an effort to lose something - namely one’s life. “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves, and take up their cross and follow me.” Of course, the goal is to find one’s life. However the path to getting there is not as much in the finding as it is in the losing.
Denying myself has always been difficult because I’ve always been a nice guy who follows the rules. And that, for most of my life, has fit in well with being identified as a Christian. I’ve always felt that denying myself was a step I could step over, because I’m really pretty good already.
Except that is precisely what was wrong with the Pharisees. They were pretty good already. In that context, Jesus’ point about denying oneself doesn’t seem to be as much about doing the right thing as it does with allowing the right person to be in charge. It’s the difference between doing and being, the latter the more important part.
Which brings us back to identity and losing it. Finding our life in Christ means losing whatever part of us believes we are good enough to be in control. We cannot reach God through our moral efforts. Christ is the only way to reach God and is simultaneously the only way we can truly find ourselves. Losing ourself means being vulnerable, giving up control and trusting God.
That's not always easy.
But it leads to the best and most joyful discovery.