Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The Crucified Life

For years it seems I've been very aware of God asking me to deny myself. Except it doesn't feel as simple as self-denial. That sounds somewhat easy, like letting someone have the last cookie. No, it's much more excruciating than that. Maybe that's why Scripture refers to it as being crucified with Christ.

A couple years ago I thought I was going to drown in the innumerable opportunities to get beyond myself. Granted, mothering young children in itself is a wonderful tool to point out just how selfish you are. And mothering three provides three giant flashlights shining on things you thought you had well hidden! It felt like God and I would just finish working through an issue when another would raise its ugly head. What was worse is we often revisited issues I thought I had gotten over. As time went on and I got lots of practice, it became easier to turn to God as soon as I felt that nasty sense of self-entitlement creeping up. Yes I still had lots of opportunities to get my feathers ruffled, but the act of immediately giving Him the situation brought much peace.

Recently, a few circumstances resurrected familiar feelings of frustration and unfairness and self-righteousness I've been able to give to God for a long time. I haven't been in such a twit in a ages and I was shocked by how stealthily those feelings climbed on my shoulders until I was wearing such a burden of self-entitlement, it couldn't help but spill over onto those closest to me. Unfortunately, the outburst that seemed so right left a wake of guilt worse than the original frustration and anger. I was sure my intentions were pure. I was positive this time I had facts to back my feelings. However, if I was right, why did I feel so yucky? Again I asked myself a question I've asked myself (and God) innumerable times before -- what about me? Do I always have to put my feelings last and let You handle these silly frustrations? Can't I just tell people what I think??

Wouldn't you know, as I was doing my Esther Bible study this morning, Beth Moore talked about the crucified life. I didn't even finish the day's lesson, I got so hung up on this comment she made. She sited 2 Corinthians 4:10-11 --

We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus' sake, so that his life maybe revealed in our mortal body.

Her follow-up comment stopped me short: "Listen, Beloved. God's forte is life. He's just not willing to leave things dead. A paramount theme in Esther is what God can do when we resolve to obey and 'if I perish I perish.' Any time He calls us to die, His purpose is to reveal larger life."*

While Esther was risking her life by approaching the king, the principle holds true even with daily opportunities to deny oneself in the small things. God has a purpose. Just as a master gardener won't leave an empty space in his garden when a flower fades, God will replace what He's weeded with something lovely and beautiful, far surpassing anything that we could manufacture on our own. So to answer my "what about me" question, denying myself really is about me. Because while it seems painful and like part of me is being crucified again, God is answering my prayer to make me into the woman He desires me to be. And He's promised He has my good in mind. His desire is not to harm but to give me hope and a future. Is it painful? Very much so. Is it worth it? Beyond doubt.

*Quoted from Esther: It's Tough Being a Woman by Beth Moore.

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