A few years ago my roommate Jake and I came into possession of a moped-like vehicle made in the early 80’s by Yamaha called a “Towny.” It was like an old Scwhinn cruiser with a 48cc motor attached to it. It was given to us by a neighbor who was moving away and unable to bring it with them to their next home. Unfortunately, our new Towny was in less than ideal condition and refused to start. Being the mid-20s and prideful men that we were, Jake and I set out to get it running as a summer project.
Jake eventually managed to get the motor running enough for us to ride along on and we were ecstatic. The Towny quickly became a hit amongst our friends because it was small enough that most could ride it with little previous motorized bike experience, but fast enough to be fun. Within a week or two, the motor stopped running and we were unable to get it started again.
As I did research into how to get our small two-stroke motor operational again, I found potential solution after potential solution. So naturally I began at the cheapest end of the list. When my first attempt at a solution didn’t work I would move onto the next. About a half-dozen potential solutions later I found myself browsing eBay for replacement carburetors. I eventually bought one believing that this would be my final attempt to solve the Towny problem.
I watched a few videos online and enlisted the help of some friends who were more mechanically inclined than I. Eventually we stripped the Towny of its ancient part and replaced it with the pristine after-market carburetor. We reconnected all of the hoses which fed fuel, oil, and air into the part and held our breath as we tried to restart the engine with its kick starter.
15 minutes and plenty of sweat due to the humid afternoon sun later, the Towny was still inoperable. While I could rest in the fact that the carburetor would need to be replaced at some point, I realized that the only way really get this machine running would be a total engine rebuild. I’ve rarely been let down more than I was in that moment. I eventually decided that the Towny wasn’t worth the effort and gave up.
Do you ever surprise yourself?
There are times in my life when I’ve been genuinely surprised at something I’ve done, said, or thought. I don’t mean surprised like finding a five dollar bill in your pocket. I mean surprised that I have been a mean, self-centered, or angry as I have been. It’s never a good feeling to discover that you’re a little (or a lot) worse off than you thought you were. In some of my darkest times I’ve asked myself the question of why or how God could know what I’m capable of doing, followed by how could His posture towards me still be one of love and grace.
If we’re honest, I think we all ask those sorts of questions. In my experience the people who seem most secure and transformed by God’s love revealed in Jesus of Nazareth are those who regularly meditate on this question. Those same people are often less surprised by what they - or others - are capable of doing, thinking, and saying.
King David is described in the Bible as a “man after God’s own heart” (1 Sam. 13:14, Acts 13:22). In one of his poetic responses to God, David assumes a posture of deep humility in the face of God’s overwhelming and inescapable presence: “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my concerns. See if there is any offensive way in me; lead me in the everlasting way.” (Ps. 139:23-24) Can you imagine this type of boldness before the Lord? David makes an invitation to God to lay bare all of his iniquities; we can read this almost as a challenge to see if God could really find something wrong with David.
Or is it something else?
Recall David’s scriptural moniker: “A man after God’s own heart.” What does it mean to be after someone’s heart? I think it means that I want to want what you want, love what you love, think like you think. This phrase is a statement of radical submission by David; it’s him saying, “I’ll do whatever it takes to experience the affections of God.” For David everything is on the table.
I love this image because I think it paints for us moderns a picture of discipleship that is exceedingly rare. Can you say that there is anything currently in your life where literally the whole of you would be on the table in order to obtain it? Jesus describes the Kingdom of Heaven as a pearl of great price. He says, “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of find pearls. When he found one priceless pearl, he went and sold everything he had, and bought it.” (Matthew 13:46-47) The merchant - a man who knew the value and nuance of fine pearls - saw one so worthwhile that he would be willing to sell all of his things - presumably other pearls of great price - in order to obtain it.
He was willing to install the carburetor and then rebuild the engine. Why? Because he saw the abundant value in the pearl.
My observation on disciples, then, is simple: someone who seeks to follow Jesus of Nazareth puts everything on the table. They don’t hold anything back. Why? Because He is worth it.