Monday, March 13, 2006

Laying Down and Dying

"In the mundane tasks of living
In the pouring out and giving
In the waking up and trying
In the laying down and dying
This kingdom's coming"

As a mother, I can relate to the first three lines of these Sara Groves lyrics. When I first heard this song ("Kingdom Comes") I thought the "laying down and dying" line was kind of odd and depressing because I thought she was literally talking about dying. (I can be kinda slow when it comes to poetry.) I later realized Sara was referring to the concept of dying to self .

I've come to believe that the perfect laboratory to experiment with the concept of dying to self is parenthood. Nothing else brings out our worst, most selfish selves like parenthood does. Of course it also calls out our best selves at times, but most often it confronts me with this ugly person I'd never met before I had kids.

"The greatest advantage of not having children must be that you can go on believing that you are a nice person. Once you have children, you realize how wars start."
Fay Weldon

I recently had the realization that I am a spoiled child. It came to me one day as I was dealing with my daughter's newly acquired habit of arguing. My frustration was escalating and the thing I usually go to in order to cope with my frustration was the thing I'd committed to abstain from for that day. That made me even more frustrated. In that moment of suddenly coming to the end of myself, I buried my face in my hands and prayed a prayer of desperation. Tears came as I felt God reveal something difficult and important to me - My daughter's struggle with me about not getting her way is also my struggle with God about not getting my way.

I was reminded of something I’d read by Dan Allender who said that every child in a thousand different ways asks two core questions: "Am I loved?" and "Can I get my own way?" He said that our task as parents is to say "yes" to the first question and "no" to the second. Of course we and our children do sometimes get what we desire, but in general we are to teach our children, and learn for ourselves, that life is not about getting our own way. To realize that we are liked, loved, and adored by God, and to let him have his way in our lives because we know it is imeasurably better than our own way - this is the stuff of abundant life.

By divine “coincidence”, the sermon at church yesterday focused on these words of Jesus.

“I tell you the truth, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. The one who loves her life will lose it, while the one who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. All those who want to be my disciples must come and follow me, because my servants must be where I am. And if they follow me, the Father will honor them. ” (John 12:24-26)

"Dying to self," "surrender," "sacrifice" – these are the words and themes that I have been pondering and wrestling with for over a month (and that came out of my pastor’s mouth verbatim yesterday). There have been so many divine “coincidences” like that lately. I feel God moving, speaking, stretching, and teaching me in ways I haven’t for a very long time. It’s hard and good and exciting all at the same time! I'd wish this kind of death on anyone! ;-)


Gregg Koskela said...

Beautiful, Marta! I love your honesty and your thoughtfulness. I love the quote about teaching our children that they are loved but they don't get their own way. I love having others help me figure out what it looks like to live for God in this way.


Jon Knapp said...

It is so hard, and such a foreign concept to truly die to ourselves, as everything in our culture (even at times in the church culture) tells us that we are most important. Our whole system breeds selfishness, yet there is no room for that in the kingdom of God.

I am slowly trying to die . . .

thanks for the great post.

Aaron Geist said...

I had the privilage of seeing Sara Groves in concert at Winter Youth this year. She was wonderful and I appriciated her heart very much.