If at first you don’t succeed, wingsuit flying is not for you. Watching videos of those guys flips my stomach. Especially the takeoff. They climb to the peak of a high cliff, teeter on the edge, count to three and dive, headfirst, nearly straight down. I suppose it’s to build up enough speed. There’s no halfway in a wingsuit jump. No easing into it. It’s everything or nothing.
Same thing with Jesus. Everything or nothing. People ease up close to Jesus, spend time talking and singing about Jesus and read books about Jesus but none of that matters. About many who called Him Lord, Jesus said, “I never knew you.” There’s no halfway; you gotta jump. Headfirst. Jesus said it like this:
34 And He summoned the crowd with His disciples, and said to them, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. 35 For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it. (Mark 8:34-35)
“Deny himself” does not necessarily mean giving everything to the poor (although it might mean that in some circumstances). It means letting go of fear and the overwhelming urge to keep yourself safe. For a wingsuit jumper, it would be ignoring the part of your brain that is screaming, “Are you out of your mind????” For the would-be disciple, it is abandoning all half-way measures, all plans B in case it doesn’t work out. If you try to save your life you’ll never find it in Him. It’s everything or nothing.
“Take up his cross” does not mean to commit suicide. It means to let go of all the things you used to think defined life. Money, fame, popularity, success, luxury, good looks, fun – all these things are pursued by people who think they will provide a satisfying, full life. The would-be disciple doesn’t necessarily become penniless or unpopular. He lets go of the idea that those are important. He recognizes that full life, satisfying life can only be found in the company of Jesus.
“Follow Me” means to pay attention, learn and imitate the attitudes and actions of Jesus. Not the bland, passive Jesus of paintings and Sunday School books but the robust, free-spirited, radical, passionate Jesus. To follow Jesus is to let go of your own plans and let Him take you on a real adventure.
Perhaps these imperfect descriptions of Jesus’ cryptic challenge sound repressive and personally suffocating. My experience has been just the opposite. Instead of letting the fickle, competitive world set the agenda for how to live, I’ve discovered the One Who created me can set me free to be all He made me to be.
But you can’t get there tentatively or halfway. You gotta jump. Everything or nothing.