Self-will. Selfishness. Self-centeredness. Self-importance. Self-pity. Self-absorption. Self-conceit. Self-flattery. Self-indulgence. Self-seeking. Self-satisfaction.
In Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary (11th Edition), there are three-and-a-half pages dedicated to "self" words. Our language has a plethora of words describing how important we are, how we're great, better than others, our ideas higher than our neighbors, how we excel.
Aren't we fabulous? Me. Me. Me.
Quite the contrast with the man who said "Unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds."
Jason and I are hobby gardeners. Mainly, it's an experiment. But one thing's for sure, unless we bury that "dead" seed in the ground, it's not going to come alive and yield fruit.
I think there's a part in all of us that wants to be the best, first, prettiest, strongest, most liked, etc. Maybe, just being human? The flesh against the spirit thing. But, when it comes right down to it, do we want success as in "I want to do these things for the Lord" or do we long for our success to be better than Joe's or Sue's? Do we dream of our product—books, writing, work, ministry—blessing the Lord or outshining our competitors or neighbors?
The disciples argued over just such a thing. Who's the greatest? Who would do the biggest exploits for the kingdom of God? Jesus asked them what they'd been arguing about. Arguing. Can you imagine? These guys are following Jesus, the Son of God, along a dirt road and they're arguing about who's the greatest. Of course, they didn't want to tell him what they'd been disagreeing (bragging) about. Would you?
Jesus' response is priceless. "If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all." In another verse, these words pulse right to the heart of pride versus humility: "If anyone would come after me, (ANYONE) he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me." Death to self.
Since I write second chance stories, I've been thinking about husbands and wives and death to self. I'm reminded of the section in Ephesians that tells men to love their wives just as Christ loved the church and gave up everything for her. Wow! Can you imagine such a great love? A husband and wife who choose self-denial? Always putting the other one first? Sure, in marriage it's give and take, and there are times we've all been willing to give up our will, our rights, and go along with our spouse's wishes and needs. But all the time? Whew. That would change everything. Death to self.
Picture a husband and wife in the middle of a heated argument. Their mouths are wide open as dirt-rot slides over their tongues and spews into the air. Suddenly, in each of their hearts, simultaneously, the Lord speaks to them, reminding them about dying to self. Loving your neighbor as yourself. The husband giving himself up for her. Her submitting to him as to the Lord. Being last instead of demanding to be first. Servant of all. Death to self.
Yep. In a moment, tempers cool. Hearts react to the Holy Spirit's presence and prodding. We never meant to say those things. I'm so sorry. Repentance. Maybe tears. Forgiveness. Hope for change. Renewal. Perhaps, hugs and kisses.
Death to self can change everything. Sometimes in a moment.
In my upcoming book April's Call, Ty is faced with some tough choices. He can demand his own way and cause trouble between him and Winter, or he can denying himself, love his wife even like Christ loves the church. Become a servant in heart. Putting her needs before his own. It's always a choice. Not necessarily an easy one. Death to self is a spiritual fight between the flesh and the spirit. Which will win?
I hope the next time I'm itching to choose selfishness, self-pity, and self-centeredness, I will remember the death-to-self part of God's plan for my life. Jesus, help me.
It's not easy. But, then, death never is.