There is a mental assent to the whole giving up yourself and following Jesus thing.
In my head it’s great and grand, like many things are in my imagination.
Real life hits the floor hard though and I find myself in the third person, talking about Myself rather than me, and Myself is one with lofty ideals and deathbed wishes and me?
I’m living pretty good.
No casket needed here. No burial clothes or mourning because I’m pretty much still alive, still living and grasping for abundant life rather than dying daily.
I read a verse in Ephesians 5 in the amplified Bible last week.
And walk in love [esteeming and delighting in one another] as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us, a slain offering and sacrifice to God [for you, so that it became] a sweet fragrance. ~ Eph. 5:2 AMP
My husband can read a verse and chew it all day, just completely breaking it down and consuming it. But I’ve always felt like I had to read large hulking portions of scripture in order to fulfill the “requirements” for having a quiet time. It has to be a chapter at the barest minimum, and more is always better.
And seldom can I tell you in the evening what I read in the morning.
But Ephesians 5, all amplified and stretched out like that, was a feast for me this time. There was no need to go any further. This verse was about relationships and it was my prayer for our children that day, that they would esteem and delight in one another. Sounds ideal.
And then it was caught in my throat: He gave Himself up.
I gave up sugar for 30 days. And grains and legumes and dairy. I learned to drink my coffee black and to inhale the scent of pancakes rather than pancakes themselves, and I learned that I have all kinds of bad habits when it comes to food.
I’ve given up on goals and given up on people and given up on trying from time to time, but never have I truly given up my Self, like, for good.
Idealist-Me has given up my Self again and again with at least sincere mental assent. It’s good. It’s needed. It’s called discipleship and it means Christ now lives in me because I’ve been crucified with Him and only one of us came out alive.
But me, the real me, walks daily in conflict with Myself. And have I ever truly given myself up?
I call it Deathbed Christianity, this always struggling with dying and living in Christ.
I want to quit me but it’s not like quitting sugar or cheese or warm crispy toast with creamy peanut butter, cut into fourths like mom used to do.
I want to quit me but in so endeavoring I find myself completely focused on my Self, and it’s distracting.
I just really need the One who gave Himself up for me and Myself.
My Self, that pitiful part of me that takes center stage in feigned martyrdom, a death of only my imagination and my mind. This flesh is still all clingy and to take it off like a garment? To unclothe right there on center stage?
Let me step down first.
Let me put Him in His rightful place and all eyes can focus solely on His goodness and maybe, possibly, they’ll not notice my lack of it.
So I am a Deathbed Christian, after all.
I am the one lying helpless and naked-as-I-came, dying but gasping and weakly clinging like flesh to all my bones.
He gave Himself up. Just quit Himself right there on the spot for me, and you.
So I take up my deathbed-of-a-mat and walk because He says to. I’m telling Myself to let go of lofty ideals because Jesus called me to live in the dirt and flesh, and by that I mean that I can’t spend my time focusing on being better or doing better or even on dying to self.
Because then I focus on me.
I have to trust that His righteousness covers me.
I have to believe that all His breathed inspiration is for me, too. Little ol’ me, and not just for His favorites or His superstars, of which I know there are none. I know it.
Or maybe I am His favorite. His favorite Me, like I tell my kids that they’re my favorite Ethan or Shelby or Jacob or Bailey.
When the dying is no longer the focus, the living is so much easier.
I’m working through these thoughts so that on those days, those flesh-taking-over and those struggling-to-die days, I can see my deathbed for what it really is – a blessed riddance.
“Like the eye which sees everything in front of it and never sees itself, faith is occupied with the Object upon which it rests and pays no attention to itself at all. While we are looking at God we do not see ourselves – blessed riddance. The man who has struggled to purify himself and has had nothing but repeated failures will experience real relief when he stops tinkering with his soul and looks away to the perfect One. While he looks at Christ, the very things he has so long been trying to do will be getting done within him. It will be God working in him to will and to do.” ~ A.W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God