Thursday, August 10, 2006

How to Die

I'm currently meditating on this passage of Scripture from John's Gospel (chapter 12) in the New Testament, which was brought to my attention by a visit to Sacred Space (amazing online prayer and meditation):

Jesus said "Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honour."

The editors of Sacred Space make this profound and difficult insight into the passage:
"The grass sheds its seeds on the soil before it withers. The salmon swims up the stream to die. It is harder for us humans to accept the law of nature, that we too must fade away and find happiness in passing on our riches to others."

I have to admit, that's a tough invitation. But Jesus seems to be saying, hey, this is a fundamental reality of life: deal with it. Want a productive life? Die. Want to increase the happiness of the world around you? Die. Want to get at what life is actually about (as opposed to what I think it's about)? Die.

Now, "dying to self" is a concept firmly rooted in the tradition that nurtured me in my youth. And the concept goes something like this: Give God the "unknown bundle," that is, all the things you don't know you don't know before you know. But the reality is difficult. What does it mean to die to myself?

Jesus isn't talking literal death here, he's talking volitional death. Death of my will asserting itself in every one of my interactions in favor of my way over against some other way. So this is forcing me to wrestle with a whole set of questions.

How should I die? How does that work out with maintaining healthy boundaries? What does that mean for my marriage? My work? My hobbies? My interests? The way I spend my money? The things I allow to rattle around in my head? The emotions I indulge? The emotions I neglect? The thoughts I shove aside? My relationships with my superiors? My relationship to the marginalized and disenfrachised? My relationship to other religions?

This is, as Jesus understood, a core issue of life (as opposed to some minor, comparmentalized religious issue) that most people (including me) are generally never willing to confront.

6 comments:

Josh said...

hey.

sweet blogster.

Zannadu said...

How does that work? I know about the concept of having the old self die and the new creation live. I've exsperanced it many times in my life. However there are still residual effects from that past self? How are we to deal with those consiquenses? I used to be a lesbian, I am not now by God's hand. I have true feelings for men. Still images from the porn and the act I performed come to me. If I was to die of the lifestyle would not these things be gone? It makes me question my salvation even though I know in my head the truth of the crucificationa dn reserection of Jesus. Yet my heart wonders why and what if!

Scott said...

Zanadu -
Yeah, that's the trick isn't it?
The idea of dying to self is a metaphor--in other words, it has limits in trying to understand it.
In other words, when you take the metaphor too far, you get stuck saying, "but if it died, why does it come back?"

The Apostle Paul understood this and said it this way--"I die daily." In other words, letting go of myself is a process that takes a lifetime.

We do reap what we sow, so the images and the feelings don't dissapear. They gradually get replaced.
Hope that helps in some way.

Zannadu said...

Yea your talking about the process of santification. That I can understand and that I belive in! What I have difficultly in is that it seems through interaction with others, that when it comes to homosexuality it doesn't seem that way.

Exsample: I am great with kids. My heart is perticularly for the ages between 9 and 13. However the last church I was at they did not alow me to serve God in that area because of my past. It just seems that God's people are not very kind and forgiving like our Father.

I often question my salvation because I forget to keep my eyes on the word and listen to what the people are saying. In my life I've only heard 2 people say that homosexuality was forgivable sin and something God can deliver you from. (this is with out me saying something before hand) Most people say that homosexuals are going to go to hell and leave it at that.

I worry about the youth that are growing today because the structure of family which God gave us is broken and so the identies of our kids are also broken. The world is more than ready to give them a chance to form themselves in it's image instead. I know this is a little off subject, but it's really not. This is where my heart aches and I know that this is where God has called me to serve. I try to but ever turn I run into red tap because churchs are not paying atention to the Word of God, but tring to function as a modern day image of buisness. I feel as if I am being punished for who I used to be. I don't know what to do, other than I can't do anything and just let Dad do it! He's put some kids in my life that I can influince and rear up in the image of God as ilistrated in the the Word of God.

Josh said...

Scott...

come weigh in on a conversation on Brian's Blog.

He's asking the question: after we've established a relationship with somebody, how do we communicate the story of Christ to them?

avoiding the 4 spiritual laws of course...

Scott said...

Zannadu -
In the words of Bill Clinton: I feel your pain.

You're right, the church often does a really poor job of loving a person in spite of their mistakes.

Homosexuality is a sin. So is greed, pride, lust, materialism and gossip. I think we give those people another try.

I've worked on staff for the last two years with a man who lived as a homosexual most of his life. With God's help, he met and married a woman who lived as a lesbian most of her life! An amazing couple that I love with all my heart. So I know it's possible.

A couple questions: do the church's you are trying to help not let simply because of your past? I do know that in many instances, a background check will rule some people out of working with kids. I don't know what your past is and I don't want to be so rude as to insinuate something. If that's not the deal, find a church that practices grace (like ours) and work there.

Peace,
Scott