I set a goal to swim 25 meters underwater. A bystander asked when I was going to do 50 meters. His question revealed my underwater touchstones were crosses. I was invited to undertake a terrible activity. Dread of inhaling water, and suffocating, made me sorrowful. I thought of my sorrow while reading Luke 18.
Luke tells of Jesus and a rich young ruler: "Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me." The rich man became sorrowful because he had great wealth.
Each use of "sorrow" finds influential people balking: a king at a beheading; a ruler at liquidation; the Savior at the cross. Most uses show action after dread: John is beheaded and Jesus is crucified. The rich young ruler's word for sorrow is the same as Herod's and Jesus'. Jesus was asking him to do a dreadful thing.
I rightly anticipated the dread of being submerged for 50 meters. I panicked, inhaled water and failed. The underwater crosses nevertheless beckoned. Jesus panicked, sweated blood and stumbled. Nevertheless, the hilltop cross beckoned. The rich young ruler's sorrow may have been fueled by awareness. He knew obedience required inventory, finding buyers, documentation, pricing and fair distribution of resources to vulnerable populations.
Must Jesus bear the cross alone,
And all the world go free?
No, there's a cross for everyone,
And there's a cross for me.
(Verse of a hymn)
(Verse of a hymn)
I balked but did the 50 meters underwater by fixing my eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame. I took up my cross and now read the rich young ruler with more empathy.
Maybe he did sell everything, give to the poor and follow Jesus.
I think about the rich young ruler when leaving my wife and children and climbing into police cars as the sun sets.