Getting Out of Our Own Way

My friend and Chicago storyteller, Jim May, tells this story:

The old man had slept the night at the edge of the village. He awakened at his usual time, just before sunrise, as a warm wind moved over the land, gathering up faint aromas that sweetened the air: a small garden here, a tiny blossom there, the pungent whisper-memory of a dying waterhole.

He sat up, looked to the east where the sky was beginning to lighten, and began his morning devotions, starting the day with prayer as he had done almost every day of his life. It was during these prayers that the sound of hurried footsteps greeted his ears, and then a voice behind him: “Master, master, where is it?”

The old man turned slowly, and there standing behind him was a young peasant, dressed in rags. The young man was excited, his chest heaving up and down, his eyes intense and piercing. The old man studied the young man for a long moment. “What is it that you ask of me?”

The young man bowed slightly to his elder, seeming to calm himself a bit, and spoke: “I had a dream last night, and in my dream I came to the edge of the village and met a holy man.  And now here you are. In my dream, that holy man gave me a precious jewel.”

Ah,” replied the old man as he reached down and retrieved from a clump of grass a ruby the size of a fist. “You must mean this. I found it . . . don’t know where, but I have no use for it. You may have it.”

With that, the old man handed the ruby to the young peasant, a man whose hands had never held more than two copper coins at one time. The young man took the ruby. He could not believe his good fortune. He held it up to the sun, his face awash in a red glow. He walked home slowly, holding the jewel in his hand, his arm outstretched in front of him. He could not take his eyes off it.

Returning to his small cottage, he placed the ruby on the table, pulled up the one chair that he owned, and sat all day admiring his treasure. He would turn the stone this way and that, slowly, reverently stroking this great gift over and over as the hours passed.

That night the young man had difficulty sleeping. The next morning he was traveling to the fields, the ruby secure in his pocket, when he came upon the old man. It is said that the young peasant approached the holy man, took the ruby out of his pocket, and gave it back.

“I do not want this. I want what you know that made it so easy to give it away.”

There is a saying I have heard time and again that “salvation is a matter of subtraction, not addition.” The words “surrender” and “subtraction” have similar root word ideas, meaning to give back, to return to something.” It reminded me of the first time I heard the story above was when I was hanging out with Jim May at the National Storytelling Festival in the tiny historic town of Jonesboro, TN, where 1000’s of people gather to hear stories for 3 full days of stories from around the world. The October weekend was filled with fall colors, huge outdoor tents, laughter, wonder, and the sounds of trains every few hours rumbling through the Smoky Mountains. I was actually performing at the festival that weekend, for the first time. And I was terrified. One thing Jim said to me then, and I continue to remember time and again, “When it comes to being what we are called to be, sometimes we just have to get out of our own way in order to be present to the way that is in front of us.”

This Sunday, Sept. 23, at eleven:eleven, we continue our series, This is HOW: Big Mind help for Small-Minded Times and I want to think with you about “Surrender.” Jesus told his disciples that in order to experience the kingdom as he was speaking of it, they would have to die to themselves in order to find themselves. The popular science and philosophy host, Jason Silva, recently said, “The stage design management of attention and awareness to the present is where the treasure lies. It’s where the magic lives.” Let’s explore what it means to participate in the present, to participate in God’s kin-dom, by “getting out of our own way.”  

The Director of the Center for Transforming Lives, Carol Klocek, will also join us to welcome us in the Historic 512 and share a little about the amazing transforming work of the CTL.

See you Sunday!

Rev. Tom McDermott
Associate Pastor of eleven:eleven


North Texas Giving Day is TODAY!

Thursday, September 20, 2018
6:00 am – midnight

Give to First Street Methodist Mission, Methodist Justice Ministry, and Dementia Friendly Fort Worth online at!
North Texas Giving Day


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