“Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.  For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”

Matthew 16:24-25

The deacon at mass last Sunday preached on this passage in his homily.  At one point he noted that we’re all going to lose our lives to something, and there are a great number of options out there for the taking — wealth, fear, anger, bitterness, popularity, etc.  In other words, it’s not as if anyone is going to escape losing his or her life, but we do have a choice what we will lose our lives to.  Br. Paul challenged us to lose our lives to Jesus.

This homily reminded me of a decision that I made almost seven years ago.  At the time, I had gone out on a few dates with my first husband, Peter, but we hadn’t been dating very long.  I realized that I had a choice before me — I wasn’t yet in love with Peter, although I was attracted to him, so I could walk away with very little pain if I wanted to.  I knew that if I continued dating him, however, I was opening up myself to potentially a great deal of pain because I could very well fall in love with a man who had only been given a few years to live.  I remember thinking that the “sensible” thing to do would be to walk away and spare myself a great deal of pain and sorrow.  However, I also knew that if I walked away it would be out of fear, and anytime I had made a decision in my life out of fear, it had been a bad one.  I remember thinking that not dating Peter for any reason other than a realization that we were not meant to be together, would mean that I was choosing fear over trust.  The fact is that none of us is going to escape sorrow in this life.  If I live my life trying to avoid pain, in the end not only would I fail, but I would also never really live.  Most of the most wonderful experiences in life only come along with the very real probability that there will be pain involved as well.

In the end, I decided to continue dating Peter, and I decided to trust that no matter how long or how short our relationship was, that God would be there, that it was safe to lose my life to him.  There were certainly moments and days, even weeks and months, when that trust was tried, when I doubted that God was there, and I wanted to lose my life to bitterness and anger.  But in the end I discovered that in choosing not to lose my life to fear, in choosing to lose my life to Jesus, I found out who I really was.  The experience of loving Peter, and losing Peter, molded me and gave me strength in a way that I never could have imagined.

You’re going to lose your life to something, choose to lose it to Jesus.