Back before GPS, in the days when, as a lost traveler, I had to stop and ask directions from some old-timer—always an old-timer—upon hearing my desired destination, he’d shake his head as though I was willfully lost and say, “Son, you can’t get there from here.”
Sure, you can, fella, I’d think. If I’m here and I need to get there, then there’s no other way to get there, than from here. So, unless we’re having an existential conversation in the parking lot of a Piggly Wiggly, I’m certain I can get there from here if you’d be so kind as to give me directions.
For decades, I only employed that phrase to cleverly expound on its contradiction. Then, one late night several years ago, I navigated for my brother, Joel, as we traveled from Charlotte to Lexington for a conference. By navigated, I mean, I listened to Siri communicate directions and then repeated after her.
Siri: “Turn left,”
“Turn left,” I said, looking up from my phone and pointing.
“Joel! Left! There!”
“I can’t turn left, bro. Look!” Joel responded as we passed our hotel, and I immediately recognized the problem. A freshly cemented three-foot-high concrete wall had been installed in the median between the left turn and our destination. We couldn’t turn left.
As we drove past and Siri jabbered, “Recalculating,” I heard myself saying that rascal phrase, “You can’t get there from here.”
Then, with epiphanous enthusiasm, “Oh? Oh! It’s about the road you’re traveling!”
* * *
For most of my life, the story of The Rich Young Ruler has been preached by well-intentioned What am I still lacking preachers. It’s the message of separation where humanity is outside of God, and the preacher spends most of his message trying to measure the distance between us.
The What am I still lacking message is a self-righteous religious attempt to earn something Jesus already gave.
And like the Rich Young Ruler, we often walk away grieving as we continue to strive down that frustrating road of lack where God is distant and eternal life is just out of reach; always, well, later…
“Truly, I say to you, it will be hard for a rich person to enter the kingdom of heaven…it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” 1
That’s what Jesus told His disciples about the transactional road the Rich Young Ruler traveled.
When they heard it, they “…were very astonished and said, ‘Then who can be saved?’”
Who can be saved is a good question and similar to What am I still lacking?
Both questions recognize the futile nature of a transactional approach to God. Both recognize a concrete median cutting us off from experiencing eternal life here and now.
Jesus responded, “With people, this is impossible…you might as well be a camel and your destination the eye of a needle…but with God, all things are possible.”
In other words, Greater Love was saying, “Go sell everything you have and follow me.”
Those were Jesus’ words to the eternal life-seeking Rich Young Ruler.
Everything? The young fella thought, overwhelmed—and for good reason.
Everything included the ideological and theological certainties upon which he’d built his entire existence. Jesus had just deconstructed his understanding to its very foundation and exposed the young man’s certainties as a three-foot concrete median cutting him off from experiencing eternal life.
It’s impossible to reach my destination on the road I’m traveling, the young fella realized, and he left grieving. But he did not leave empty-handed nor alone. Jesus sent him on his way with a GPS.
Every day after his encounter with Jesus, the young fella could hear Siri jabbering like a Holy Spirit within him.
“Recalculating! Son, you can’t get there from here! You’re gonna have to leave your transactional approach to a relationship with God and reject that ego that thinks righteousness can be achieved.”
“Recalculating! Brother, you can’t get there from here. I invite you to redefine and rediscover all your ologies in the reconciling truth of a Love that never leaves or forsakes us.”
“Recalculating! Buddy, you can’t get there from here. Leave your systematic earning systems, lay down your religious obsession with hierarchy, put away your right to punish, give up every dualistic certainty, sell all you have, pick up your cross—my Greater Love heart for the least of these—and awaken to our friendship.
Son, follow me.” 2
It was an instruction. But also an invitation to experience aiṓnios, “the unique quality of God’s life at work in us; an experience of union with God that is…simultaneously outside of time, inside of time, and beyond time.” 3
It was an invitation to eternal life in the ever-present now.
And Jesus’ invitation wasn’t given with a time limit. And that’s worth noting. The young man wasn’t Cinderella, and Jesus was no fairy Godmother.
There is no when the clock strikes twelve addenda on eternal life. Just that rascal Holy Spirit GPS, an eternal invitation to a friendship that recalculates everything. Just that old-timer in a Piggly Wiggly parking lot saying, “Son, or daughter, you can’t get there from here,” so that one day, we might experience an epiphanous moment in which we can repent and discover…
“Oh? Oh! It’s about the road we’re traveling!”
1 Matthew 19:16-29
2 Luke 29:23
3 Aiónios – https://biblehub.com/greek/166.htm
This article is excerpted from my book, Leaving and Finding Jesus
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