Jesus told Nicodemus that he had to be born again. He told the rich young ruler that he had to give away all his possessions. I think being born again is much easier.
I recently was told by a catholic classmate that I couldn't be a minister because I am married. She said that a priest should give their "whole" life to God. I tried to explain to her that we Protestants feel that we can give our whole lives to God and be married. She didn't buy it. She has a point though. Take monks, for instance. Monks give up a lot for the kingdom, and there is something to be said for that. Father Philip, a monk of my age that I met this past summer, is alone in a small, dimly lit room tonight, probably in silence. He will probably spend his nights this way for the rest of his life. Meanwhile, it's all I can do to find a moment to write this blog. Many people will scoff at the monastic way of life. I certainly do not. The monks point us to the deeper reality of what it means to live for God alone. We can all learn to live for God alone, married or not. Thus, the monks have something to say to us all.
What does it mean to give up something for God? I once heard a preacher say that he sensed God telling him to give up soft drinks, and so he never drank another one from that moment on. I wish it were that easy for me. Old habits die hard. But this afternoon as I was driving home in silence, in my moving monastic cell, God spoke to another rich young man. Perhaps I place too much emphasis on giving things up. Perhaps God is less interested in us giving up things as He is in us giving up on things. Maybe I don't need to give up soft drinks as much as I need to give up on the idea that they can make me happy. I need to give up on the idea of anything making me happy other than God. Because nothing can. Jesus knew the rich young ruler could never be as happy in his palace as he would have been laying beneath the stars with the Creator of it all. The monks are not just giving up comforts, they are embracing the Comforter.
Of course, giving up on things may entail the giving up of things. So I will continue to stumble towards the freedom and joy of living for God alone. I only pray that He never gives up on me.