Note: if you haven’t read my most recent post, I would suggest it as they were originally written to go together.
I’m clutching a cup of tea sitting in our dark and chilly kitchen. I’ve already warmed up my tea five times, and the last dregs aren’t even worth drinking. I squirm, uncomfortable.
I look down at the mug and my soul is exposed – raw – to my friend. Everything I’ve been keeping captive, biting my lip to keep it from being known, is spilled to her.
She’s calm, quiet, pensive. I can tell she’s thinking deep, the way she looks at her own coffee cup. The way she looks up but doesn’t make eye contact and breathes in. When she speaks, she closes her eyes as if trying to concentrate and focus on every word.
That’s why they call it “dying to self”. Because it feels like death.
I stop and look up. She’s right – it’s not easy to pray “break my heart for what breaks yours” and then expect to feel nothing. Dying to self is misery. It’s a personal hell.
I feel like I went through the wringer in the past year. Without a doubt, the past 9 months have been the hardest I’ve ever faced, but the things I’ve learned have been amazing. I wouldn’t trade it.
But even the last months of 2013 feel like a cakewalk compared to how I’ve felt for the past 4 weeks. I’ve even avoided writing on my blog because I didn’t feel that I could say anything encouraging or helpful.
Ann Voskamp says this in her 1000 Gifts devotional:
What insanity compels me to shrivel up when there is joy’s water to be had here? In this wilderness, I keep circling back to this: I‘m blind to joy’s well every time I really don’t want it. The well is always there. And I choose not to see it. Don’t I really want joy? Don’t I really want the fullest life? For all my yearning for joy, longing for joy, begging for joy – is the bald truth that I prefer the empty dark?
I’m sitting in the kitchen, scraping the last bits of an over-easy egg off my plate. I glance to the clock – it’s 8:30, and I need to get to work. I read her words again, and I can’t handle it anymore. My eyes fill with tears of frustration. I’m angry with my selfish blindness and desperate clutching at a life that is so beyond my control. I’m angry that I’ve let myself sit in this ‘depression’ for so long.
I’ll be late to work, but I don’t care. I’m finally coming out of this funk and feeling God’s grace. Only the night prior I had said it – All I want is to be able to choose joy… and I just can’t. I don’t know what to do.
Within twenty-four hours of admitting that – I was discovering grace again. God was speaking to me through this bold reminder in my devotional, through the advice of a friend, through songs I heard, verses and quotes I read… everything. Even Sunday’s message was centered around dying to self. He said, Jesus’ road to glory was his death on the cross… but our road to glory is our death to self.
Dying to self is such an awful process. But isn’t the outcome so much better? Letting go of control, practicing gratitude, choosing joy – they’re the hardest things in the world. Their rewards are also some of the best things in the world – having that deeper relationship with Christ is worth all the pain and tears.
One of my favorite musical artists, Audrey Assad, has a song called Humble. I have been listening to this song on repeat because it’s a reminder of everything I am learning: we bow our knees; we must decrease, you must increase. make me humble, like you.
It’s beautiful. Make me humble? Help me to daily die to myself, my selfishness, my controlling nature, my pride, my unfair blame-shifting – help me to bow the knee and willingly decrease to become like You. Help me to choose joy – and find satisfaction in Your unfailing, amazing love.
The well is always there. You just have to choose to drink from it.