A Spiritual Death Scene
Spiritually, I see myself in the Bible drama my children played out in our family room. I want the role of the winner, the victor, the champion. I don’t want to die.
And yet, this is exactly what Christ calls me to do. Jesus said:
“If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross daily, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it.” (Luke 9:23-24 NLT)
Jesus spoke these words to His disciples as a way of warning them that following Him might mean physical death. He had just informed them of His impending death and now told them to prepare themselves for the same kind of treatment.
But we can also understand Jesus’ words in a spiritual sense. Following Jesus means I may need to die to my selfish desires. I may need to kill my pride, bump off my own agenda, and assassinate my need to control and manage my life.
At first glance, this kind of dying has no allure. Like my children when they first began their David and Goliath dramas, I don’t fight for the chance to die.
In my journey with Jesus, He has often pointed out an ambition or attitude that needed to die. Unfortunately, I can’t think of a single time where I immediately agreed with Him. Instead, I tend to argue, plead, and offer compromises. I take the role of the defense attorney and fight for the thing I so desperately want.
A Goliath in My Soul
Recently I’ve felt God tugging on my soul, asking me to kill off a Goliath residing there. God whispers, urging me to surrender something that’s been a part of me for a long time. I want to ignore Christ’s instruction to “give up my life.” But God’s persistent prodding sends me back to those verses in Luke. There I discover in my study Bible’s notes that Jesus spoke the phrase “whoever loses his life for me” more than any other—six times in four gospels. It must be important. So I reluctantly ask God, “What needs to die?”
And I begin to realize: I need to kill off my idea of the perfect life. God gently asks me to change my paradigm of contentment. And this requires a long, drawn-out death scene.
You see, I always thought satisfaction depended on getting what I wanted. A video played in my mind of what a perfect life should look like—marriage, kids, nice house, friends, success—and I thought I couldn’t have happiness if any of those elements were edited out. Thankfully, God has included many of these scenes in the feature film of my life. But just when I deem the movie perfect, God always seems to make a cut I don’t like. I have a wonderful family, but my son now lives 350 miles away and my daughter moved half-way around the world. Wonderful friends graced my life, but then moved two states away. I enjoy my job, but success always seems just out of reach. Because I couldn’t attain my ideal life, I never had contentment.
The Goliath in my soul shouted out, “You deserve more. Don’t rest until you have complete satisfaction.”
At first, I agreed with this foe and tried using weapons of the world to gain what I wanted. I read productivity books and made five-year plans. I signed up for classes and joined networking groups. I worked harder and longer. When that didn’t work, I fought against God instead of the giant, confronting Him with my complaints. I hurled up prayers that explained how to arrange my life optimally. I flung up demands instead of requests.
God patiently listened. He tried to remind me that true contentment doesn’t look like a perfect life. He explained that He could give a type of satisfaction that didn’t depend on having every item on my wish list checked off. He pointed out the apostle Paul who said, “I have learned how to be content with whatever I have” (Philippians 4:11 NLT).
But I didn’t listen. The giant in my soul wouldn’t die. Dissatisfaction still kicked its feet and rolled around. It moaned loudly enough to get my attention.
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