By Will Gravitt
I remember a story my pastor told about an old farmer and his first time in an airplane. The farmer was offered a ride by the pilot of a single engine crop-duster. Initially, he declined. The pilot was eventually able to persuade the farmer to join him. Crop-dusting is a crazy business. The pilot and the farmer were up and down, round and round. The farmer was white-knuckled throughout the entire flight.
Once on the ground, he told the pilot that it was very exciting and he appreciated the opportunity. As he walked away the farmer said to his wife, “it was a great ride, but I never put my full weight down.” Thomas A. Kèmpis, in his classic work The Imitation of Christ, invites the reader to hear the words of Jesus.
These words appear in chapter 8, “What do I require of thee more than that thou study to resign thyself entirely unto Me? Whatsoever thou givest besides thyself, I regard not; for I seek not thy gift, but thee. As it would not suffice thee to have all things whatsoever, besides Me; so neither can it please Me, whatsoever thou givest, if thou offer not thyself.”
I started reading Kèmpis just as I entered my first ministry position. I was fresh out of college and had a fairly high opinion of myself and how truly blessed the little church in Deltona, FL was to have me. Along with the real life interactions that immediately began to deflate my ego, the words that Kèmpis poured unto a page nearly 600 years earlier invited me into a deeper understanding of what Christ really desired from me. I had been jumping through hoops for a while. Frankly, that is what college seemed to be about. There were projects, tests, reports, presentations, and an internship. Even the internship had reports and projects. With every competency attained, I was evermore convinced that my audience would be satisfied. It must have worked. I was interviewed and beat out the other candidates. I was deeded “employable.”
During those years at the church, all of what happens in the lives of people happened. There were deaths, pregnancies, divorces, marriages, conflicts, rivalries, sicknesses, and even a hurricane. It was clear that I wasn’t competent enough. And it became even clearer that in all of those situations the church members didn’t need the wisdom of a 20-something. They were longing for the presence and peace of Jesus. I needed the presence and peace of Jesus.
It was the words of Kèmpis above that helped me more fully understand that to have the peace and presence of Jesus. I needed to give myself to Him, not just my gifts. He wanted me, not my performance. I was in Him, but I needed to put my full weight down. I would love to be able to truthfully say that it is as simple as easing into the seat of a plane. It is not. What Jesus asks of me often feels like the last thing I want to give. But I know it is true. He wants me, the full weight of me. All of me in all He asks.