"Amen, amen, I say to you, when you were younger, you used to dress yourself and go where you wanted; but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” John 21:18
I am not master of my own destiny, but I have a lot of agency, at this time in my life. I make decisions for many people, including myself. I tell this one go, and she goes, etc. I am wealthy in many ways: health, family, friends, secure housing, and actual money.
And we all know how hard it is for the wealthy to enter the kingdom of heaven. I get to act in a lot of ways that preserve my external, worldly dignity. I can drive myself around, I can speak for myself, I can eat what I will, when I will. Sure, I depend on other people, but not in ways that damage my image or my dignity.
But the path to salvation lays in stretching out my hands and being led where I do not want to go. Many people experience that overtly, here on earth, in tangible and uncomfortable ways. Some people do not have any control over their housing. Some have no control over their mobility. Some have no choice in what they eat or wear. And sometimes I am the one making these choices for other people: for my children, for my family, for friends who depend on me. And it's incumbent on me to remember that one day I'll likely be in the same position, being led where I do not want to go, and my experience of being treated with dignity may lie with other people.
But it's not a matter of tit for tat. Even if I dropped dead tomorrow, and so never suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, my role on earth is to treat others with dignity, whether I'm leading or being led. Often, leading others is itself a form of being led where you do not want to go, when the leading is difficult or involves sacrifice.
And in the end, we're all being led where we don't want to go by Jesus Himself, because he's leading us to holiness, and if it were easy to get there ourselves, we'd already be holy.
Model of Apostolic Courage
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