Earlier this week, I was driving home after a long day at work. It was a good day, but I was tired. I was driving on a stretch of road I’ve driven on many times over the years. Not much changes on this route. Once in a while a train goes by and the cars have to stop and wait. It’s never for too long. It never surprises me.
But what I saw around the last curve did surprise me. I’ve never seen it on this road or any other.
There was an animal running parallel to the railroad tracks. In broad daylight. At first, I thought it was a ground hog. I’ve seen them in various locations around town, so I expect to see one now and then. But I quickly realized it wasn’t a groundhog at all. Wrong color. Wrong size. Wrong body.
As I looked closer, his tail clearly identified him. A beaver. A young one.
His tail was lifted off the ground. It was board straight, looking like a paddle, and perfectly parallel to the ground. This little guy ran incredibly fast. I’ve never seen a beaver run before. I had no idea that they could move like this. I imagined them to be waddlers more than sprinters. But there was no waddle in this guy. He didn’t have a sweatband on his head, but he might have. He ran like he was running the Olympic race of his life.
I do have a tendency to humanize animals. But as I looked at this little guy, I was sure I recognized the expression on his face. He was lost. Panicked. He didn’t know where he was going. He simply ran with all his strength, hoping that he’d find his way home.
He was far from the river. There were no other beavers around. He was running in the world all alone. And the world is a scary place when you don’t recognize any landmarks and you’re out there on your own, running on you own power and no one else’s. Eventually, you get tired. Eventually, you can no longer run.
Eventually, without help, you simply collapse.
There are a lot of people who are running as fast as they can, not knowing where they’re going. Not recognizing any landmarks. They’re lost. They’re panicked. They don’t know where to turn. They either don’t have family to help them, like the little beaver, or their family is as lost as they are.
So they run as fast as they can, believing they can outrun the this panicky feeling of not knowing where they’re going or what’s important in life. Sometimes they know that something’s missing, but they don’t know what. Like the rich young ruler in Matthew 19:16–30, they may even encounter Jesus, but not truly recognize him for who he is. The Savior of the world. Their personal Savior.
They may even ask the right questions, like the rich young ruler. “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” But the young ruler makes three mistakes. First, he thinks that he can do something to earn eternal life. Just as I imagine the little beaver thinking, “If I run fast enough for long enough, I’ll find my way back home.” We cannot earn our way to Heaven. Which leads to his second mistake. The young ruler thinks he’s kept all the commandments. He believes that he’s perfect. He’s not willing to admit that he’s a sinner. We have to admit that we’re lost before we can be found.
And his third mistake is not knowing who Jesus is. He calls him “good teacher,” but won’t make the leap from good teacher to great God.
When Jesus tells him he must sell everything he has and follow him, the rich young ruler’s sad. He’s wealthy. He cannot part with his wealth. He’s lost and he doesn’t know it. He’s a sinner and he doesn’t know it. He’s talking to the Son of God and he doesn’t recognize him.
There are many rich young rulers today. They don’t want to let go of the things of this world to receive eternal life. Like the little beaver, they keep running as fast as they can without finding their way home.
We all have to admit that we’re lost without the Lord before we can be found. Unlike the little beaver, we can stop running. We can turn to the Lord and ask for his help. He is our landmark in a confusing world. He will show us the way home.
Kathy Yoder is a devotional writer. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.