It was just the latest in a long line of stressful situations… but really, it was more than that to me. It was the last straw. Maybe it wouldn’t have been such a big deal if it was the only thing to happen this month but to me, today, it seemed absolutely apocalyptic.And I panicked.
Crushed under the heavy weight of the burdens I’ve carried and the challenges I’ve faced over the last several months, I cried for hours. Every possible outcome seemed catastrophic. I felt as though my entire way of life was threatened – and there seemed to be nothing I could do to stop the inevitable changes that were coming. Everything I knew, everything I loved, everything I wanted and hoped for, everything I’ve dreamed of and worked toward, seemed to be either in jeopardy or racing quickly out of reach.
Eventually, these dark and depressing moments lead me to a profound and terrifying realization.
If I really want peace…
If I really want joy…
If I really want to de-stress and slow down and stop worrying so much…
I need to die.
Like the little seed referred to in John 12:24, I realized that I need to die – to totally surrender myself and everything that I am – in order to reach my full potential, to find peace and really become the person that I’ve been trying to be.
“Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.” – John 12:24, KJV
What a dilemma! We take for granted that a seed grows into a plant. However, for a seed, this process requires a complete and total surrender of self. Although something wonderful will take its place, the seed itself will be destroyed. It will no longer be a seed and it will never be able to revert back to a seed again. The seed must surrender its own safety and its own identity in order to reach its full potential.
This difficult yet essential sacrifice brings profound blessings. As a seed sprouts and grows, it becomes bigger and stronger. It stretches toward the sun and discovers the purpose of its creation. It becomes beautiful, purposeful and praiseworthy. It becomes so much more than a seed.
Aren’t we all faced with a similar choice?
At one point or another, we all find ourselves in circumstances that are comfortable, familiar, pleasant. We become attached to people or places, homes or habits, money or material things that we just can’t imagine losing or living without. As we become complacent and comfortable, these things define our comfort zone… our ‘seeds.’
This last week, I’ve discovered that I am fighting a losing battle against growth and change. I like my life exactly as it is and I don’t want to lose my life. My comfort. My home. My income. My lifestyle. My wants. My dreams. My goals. My life plan. My control. My seed.
I had a rather startling realization:
I became so concerned with my self that I forgot to consider my Savior.
“Master, which is the great commandment in the law?”
“Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment.” –Matthew 22:36-38
This is, perhaps, one of the most frequently quoted verses of scripture I’ve ever known…. but have we ever stepped through the feel-good veneer of this verse and really contemplated what this really means for each of us individually?
All thy heart.
All thy soul.
All thy mind.
All of it.
Nothing held back, nothing hidden, nothing reserved.
It is just not possible to love the Lord with all my heart, all my soul and all my mind when I’m so preoccupied with myself. I can’t give Him my all when I’m holding so much back.
The Lord deserves better…
…and so do I.
And I know this… but giving all is hard. It’s really tough stuff! It means that my whole heart, my whole soul, my whole mind are centered on Christ. There’s no room for anything else. Everything – even “every thought” (2 Cor. 10:5) – is brought into alignment with who Christ is and who He wants me to become.
It means everything else has to die. I must sacrifice all my appetites and my ambitions, my dreams and my destiny, my comfort and my control on the altar of discipleship. It means that I have to be willing to lose everything else in the pursuit of Him. Everything. All of it. Nothing held back.
As a control-freak-turned-disciple-of-Christ, I struggle with this idea of total surrender. I know that Jesus Christ is all-powerful and all-knowing, that He knows what is best for me and has a vision of my life that is greater and more wonderful than anything I can currently imagine… but despite everything that He is, He isn’t me. It’s ignorant and it’s arrogant, yes, but that’s the simple, stupid truth of it: I just don’t like the thought of letting anyone else be in charge – even if He is the Son of God.
And it’s this pride, more than anything else, that needs to die.
“He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal.” –John 12:25
The uncomfortable truth is that I have very little power over my own life. I cannot control the government, the rental company, the weather or anyone else. I have no power to predict or prevent a natural disaster. At any moment, I am vulnerable to so many things. Even when I feel “in control,” the amount of control I really have is quite pitiful.
But Jesus Christ is King. He is the Creator, Designer and Director of heaven, earth and everything – even me. He is our Gardener. My fate is, literally, in His capable Hands… and why would I ever want it anywhere else?
I know this… but it’s usually a lot easier to know something than it is to live it.
That’s the challenge of our existence: to learn to surrender everything He has given us so that He can give us something even better. That’s what dying to self means – it means choosing, every day, to focus on Christ instead of ourselves and to sacrifice everything we have and are in pursuit of His vision for our lives.
Relatively few of us will be called to die for Christ’s Gospel, but all of us are called to live it. My friends, let’s step out of our comfort zones and reach a little higher, stretch a little taller, get a little stronger every day. Let’s break through the barrier of our seed and reach toward the warm and welcoming Son. Let’s blossom and see what we can become… together.