In today’s Gospel, when Jesus says,
“Whoever wishes to save their life will lose it,” he invites us to “go all in” and bet everything we have. If we hold back we will lose, but if we let go, we will win. It’s a high-stakes “game.” All eternity is riding on our willingness to bet our whole life on Jesus.
Going all in is to deny ourselves. Some translations say forget yourself. To forget yourself is to think beyond oneself. For example, can you refuse to take the easy way of self seeking, self-gratification, self-interest? Can you deny your thoughts of getting good things for yourself? Or of evil for your "enemies? Can we stop you from lusting after people and things? Or feelings of revenge towards those who have wronged us? Can you empty yourself for the good of another even when you are tired or frustrated or don’t like the other person who is in need?
To forget yourself is to let go of control. A mother shares this story: “My son, who although he is only fifteen, is built like a tank - standing several inches taller than me and outweighing me by close to a hundred pounds. Let's just say he was a real good choice for the strong, back seat rider in the kayak. We were instructed that the backseat kayak occupant was to use their paddles to steer the kayak, while the front person just keeps on paddling. And as we found out, once we got out on the open sea, this trip was going to require constant steering and readjustment of our position in order not to lose sight of our destination.
This really should not have been a problem, only I refused to just let go and allow my son to take control. I would constantly try to steer our kayak and change our course. I thought that I was in a better position to judge where we should be going. Consequently, my son and I would be fighting each other with our opposite moves. He finally said to me "Mom, unless you stop trying to steer, I cannot do my job".
It is God's desire to lead each one of us. To plainly show us his will for our lives and lead us toward the best decision in every circumstance. It's so easy to sidestep God's Word and commands in favor of doing our own thing. We may really love the Lord, with a true desire to serve him and obey him, but with a stubborn streak that deludes us into thinking that his word does not apply to us or to our particular situation. When that happens, we have taken over the control of our lives (the kayak) and we will now go in circles - getting nowhere with a whole lot of effort!