The CallJesus calls us to walk with Him, to follow Him, to be with Him. He has glory for us— LIFE without measure, LOVE in abundance, JOY in all its fullness.Exactly how He lives in the Kingdom.But just like Jesus, we are called to necessary suffering in our lives.After all— Jesus had to die before He could rise from the dead and ascend into Heaven.A grain of wheat, He told us, must fall into the ground and die in order to produce fruit.Without experiencing Death, how would we ever appreciate New Life in Christ?Are suffering and dying really necessary? Is the Spiritual Journey necessarily so difficult?
If Jesus is our guide, then we would have to say Yes…. If He had to, then we must also.Let’s take a minute to look at the forms suffering and death take on in our mortal lives.What is your experience?Illness?Financial hardship? Death of a loved one? Being jobless and/or homeless? Broken trust? A broken heart? Failure?Humiliation?Frustration at the limitations of human life? Disappointment that life isn’t turning out the way we wanted it to?
The Two SelvesWe are each born into this world with a perfect plan from our Creator. The stamp of who we are and who we are meant to be is already in us. It is the image that perfectly reflects God in us. But it’s not long before we begin to adapt to the world around us. We take signals from our parents and others people as an infant, and our brains begin to lay down pathways that we borrow from them. This is called “mirroring” and is part of the “attachment” process whereby we learn to trust— or not trust— the world around us. Of course, parents usually try to do this well and pass along to the infant good ways of relating to the world. But like all of us, they can’t do it perfectly.
The child continues to grow and learn, all the while learning who the world wants her to be. Already the God-given design has been tampered with by the world.Each one of us constructs a new Self, according to the way we perceive the world. We choose some behaviors and ways of thinking, we react well or badly to circumstances, we unconsciously pick up behavior patterns and some are forced upon us. Over time we find that we have built a “False Self”— the one we think we need in order to survive in the world. The False Self is not necessarily bad, although it is certainly imperfect. The real problem is that it’s FALSE. We have built a superstructure around the True Self that God created, burying it deep in our hearts, and we live in hiding.Most of our life— especially the 2nd half— is an experience of having God chip away at the False Self so He can return us to His original design. Somewhere along the way, we meet Jesus.
Paul called the False Self the Old Self, or Old Man. He said we are to put it off. Not only that, but we are to be renewed in the spirit of our minds, and then put on the New Self. Which looks a lot like the True Self that God created us to be. (Ephesians 4:22ff)
When scripture talks about “dying to self”, this is the process it means. To die to sin, as Paul says in Romans 6:2, is to willingly cooperate with God as He dismantles all the false things we have believed about ourselves. It is true faith to begin to intentionally ask God to take apart this Self that we have built for ourselves apart from Him.
The False Self and Lent
In the spirit of Lent— giving something up to God— imagine yourself as the “persona” you have made for yourself. Take a few minutes and ask God to begin to reveal it to you. You will recognize this self fairly easily once you start looking. It’s the mask you wear in public when you want to look good. Or bad. Or however you wish to appear to others. You’ll find it in the things you do to please others, the profession you took on because someone else expected you to, the behavior you put on to impress someone, that moment when you realize you aren’t acting congruently with who you know yourself to be. When you’re trying too hard. When you tone down who you are because you hear a parental voice in your ear, or you want to fit into a small relationship.
This False Self is what God is calling us to lay down. It is the burden we carry. And the Cross that we pick up in order to follow Jesus is the cross on which that Self will be crucified. Maintaining the False Self is, well, a lack of faith. We think the Self God created isn’t good enough somehow.
We can’t really follow Jesus without carrying the cross and laying down our lives. (Matthew 16:24)
God will always show us our hearts if we ask. The Holy Spirit is in there shining His Light on the things that no longer belong there so that we can begin to recognize that False Self and be willing to let Him dismantle it.
It can be painful. A cross is always painful. But that's not where it ends.On the other side is freedom from the tomb, Resurrection, and eternal Rest.
Let's ask God for a good gift this year during Lent. Let's ask Him for freedom from the False prison we have built for ourselves. Let's ask Him to begin to set our Captive, our True Self, free.
And don’t hesitate to reach for someone’s hand if you need a friend to walk through it with you. If you don’t have a Christian friend or mentor to call on, call the church office and ask for the names of others on the journey who would be glad to walk with you.
The Stations of the Cross could well be a journey we will each take with Christ this Lenten season if we put our hand in His. He calls us to be brave-- to follow Him-- to trust Him. Shall we? We have nothing to lose but our Old Self.
Cindy Harris ~ email@example.com