White Knuckles: thoughts on saving your life

As a disciple of Jesus, pretty much every day I have to come back to the bizarre phrase, “for whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it” (paraphrased from Mark 8:35)

I’ve been to seminary, read lots of leather bound books, and I am still not quite sure I get the extent of what Jesus is saying. I just know the words are haunting, troubling, beautiful, paradoxical, and true.

My wife and I have asked each other the question quite a bit, “What are you white knuckling?” and I don’t know if i’ve made the connection between “White knuckling” and Jesus’ words in Mark 8, until I was speaking on them this past Saturday night in Cleveland, OH. When we use the phrase “white knuckles” in our house, we are referring to some belief, object, addiction, or way of life that has an inflated place of value in our heart. It is something we are holding onto tightly believing an illusion that it offers a life that it doesn’t. For me, I’ve placed white knuckles around careers, cars, apartments, cities, relationships, and houses at various points. The white knuckles lock us into an old way of life, perhaps a safer way, but they rob us of new creation busting forth in our midst. When your hands are clenched and gripping something or someone, you are in no position to receive the new thing. In fact, you will miss it all together.

I am no Eugene Peterson, but I think Jesus’ words in Mark 8 translate somewhat like this: “Stop white knuckling the possessions and people around you. Release that illusion of that thing so you can taste the reality of this new thing.” The beauty of Jesus’ words are that they don’t call us to lose our lives for the sake of losing them,they call us to lose them for the sake of really having them.

The reality of the new creation is all around us, and Jesus is inviting us into seeing and tasting. The ability to have life and really have it easy to understand, but hard to do. You have to let go of something and throw yourself into something else. When clenched fists turn into open hands, we are ready to experience new life.

Cheers friends.