While speaking with a friend today I experienced a profound moment in which I revealed something about myself that I didn’t even realize was true. We are all sick at my house, the weather is terrible, and I “needed” to run an errand; so I called a friend to sit with my kids. But in the process of feeling embarrassed about asking for help with a non-essential errand I realized that my impulse to call was actually driven by a feeling of loneliness. What I really needed was interaction with another adult––I needed to talk, to let a friend know I wasn’t feeling well, and to feel healed by sharing my burden.
I wondered later if that’s how the rich young man felt who came to Jesus asking, “what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?” (Mark 10:17, NT). The rich young man who was doing a good job of being a decent human being, who was keeping the commandments, felt the need to talk to someone about his life and his eternal trajectory. Did he realize he was missing something in his quest for eternal life? Was he merely seeking to justify himself? Was he looking for a pat on the back? Did he have any sense of what he lacked (but maybe hoped that wasn’t really it)? Jesus, piercing the young man’s soul, answered, “One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor…” (ibid. verse 21, NT).
It is shocking to feel like you have a handle on life and then be forced to acknowledge that you’re missing something crucial. I needed human interaction and compassion, the rich young man needed to let go of his grasp on worldly wealth. Both needs necessitated recognition of the truth and humility to act. Change is painful but it can also be liberating once we get over that initial hurdle.
To become a richer human being––a fuller, more complete person––is the process of a lifetime. But it requires us to ask hard questions along the way about our progress and performance, and be ready to act on the answers we receive from family, friends, and God. It requires us to share our best and worst selves, to open up, to ask, “What do I need to change? How can I improve? What weakness needs strengthening?” as Elder Larry R. Lawrence suggested in his October 2015 conference talk “What Lack I Yet?”. The answers may shock, upset, grieve us, or we may have sensed that lack all along. When we humbly accept and act, we enter onto a plane of deeper experience that helps us transform, little by little, into the divine individuals God knows we can become. And all those little changes gradually accumulate to make us more like the perfect Savior who has been supporting, enabling, and helping us all along.