In my former church there's a stained glass window, tucked behind the organ, nearly invisible to everyone but the Celebrant, who, for over eleven years, was me.
The window is of Jesus' encounter with the Rich Young Man. Light streams through their delicate faces and highlights their long, flowing hair. Jesus is radiant in a simple white robe. The Rich Young Man approaches in a sumptuous velvet tunic; a huge red jewel glows from his velvet hat.
The young man asks, "Lord, how do I find eternal life?" In other words, how do I find my greatest joy? My ultimate purpose? My bliss? Jesus says, "Sell everything you own and give the money to the poor. Then come and follow me."
In other words, Jesus says, "You're not going to like this but here's the deal: It's not your joy. It's not your purpose. Give up this habit of thinking you own anything. You'll only find what you're looking for by letting go of all of it.
The young man knows this price is too high. He walks away, Scripture says, "empty" - a beautiful irony for one who possesses so much.
It took eleven years for the meaning of that image to sink in. But when it did, it landed with force. A year ago, I had the image of the Rich Young Man tattooed to my left forearm, and the image of Jesus onto my right. They stand on either side of me; I live in the tension between them. 6 months after getting those tattoos, my world came crashing down. Almost as if God knew I was ready.
Since then, Jesus has been schooling me in the art of letting go - and I know this is only the beginning. Time catches all of us; in the end, everyone loses everything: health, memories, our very lives. And I don't like it. It hurts like hell. But despite myself, I am finding, just as Jesus promised, a strength that feels like me; a joy that feels like truth.