Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Deny, Take Cross, Follow!

“If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” Matthew 16:24 NIV

Oswald Chambers wrote, “Our cross is something that comes only with the peculiar relationship of a disciple to Jesus. It is the sign that we have denied our right to ourselves and are determined to manifest that we are no longer our own, we have given away forever our right to ourselves to Jesus Christ.”*

Deny our right to ourselves. What does that look like? I suspect it looks different for each believer because we all have different things that define us; different things that put a spring in our steps and different things we cling to for self-protection. I believe we must come to a point of choice: What do I want more, God or _______? And this point of choice may come more than once in our lives, each time being a critical juncture.

I can think of three such times in my life. The first was twenty-eight years ago when I returned to God after several years of not walking with him. I was pregnant, separated for two years from Tom and certain that my future lay anywhere except with him. But God made it evident that returning to Tom was what I must do. Everything in me rebelled against doing so but I was determined to follow God and so I obeyed. I look back and am so grateful that I made that choice, denying myself to follow Christ. My best guesses about what life might have been like had I chosen otherwise show only darkness, despair and a spiraling down into the pit of death.

The second time was just over four years ago. I had fallen in love with Pearl who loved me as though I was God himself. It’s not often a person gets to be a god and it’s heady stuff. She was all my dreams and passions come true. To me she was life itself and when I was told that I needed to choose between her and God, it felt like a death sentence. Surely I could have both! No. I could not. It was only after I walked away from her, denying what felt like my very breath of life, that I realized how far I had moved away from God.

The third time is now. Having read Total Forgiveness by R. T. Kendall, I realize I’ve been holding onto a bundle of unforgiveness. Am I willing to throw my “righteous” indignation, my self-protection, my rights and my way of living to the wind? Am I willing to wipe away the past and behave, speak, think as though it never happened? Will I release my wounds, my anger, my bitterness to trust Jesus with my pain and follow him away from my impatience, self-pity and demands for justice?

Chambers says, “We cannot train ourselves to be Christians; we cannot disciple ourselves to be saints; we cannot bend ourselves to the will of God; we have to be broken to the will of God.”*

Father, break me completely. I don’t like being broken and I don’t like giving up those things that make me feel happy, comforted or safe. Denying myself of what feels right and living in the pain of doing without seems impossible. But I want you more than anything else so break me and shape me into your will so that I can follow you more closely.

“Self-Realisation v. Christ-Realisation” in “Facing Reality”, part of The Complete Works of Oswald Chmabers p. 31, 32.


MJ said...

Praying for you that He who loves you more than anything will bring the peace and healing you so desire. Hugs MJ

Debbie Haughland Chan said...

MJ! I didn't know you were reading in here. Cool beans! (Who is it that says that? Someone from The South, I think.) Thanks for your prayers.

I also didn't realize that you have a blog on blogspot and you've actually been writing in it. Wow! I'm impressed. I'll be going over there to read in a bit and I've already subscribed to your blog so when you write something new, I'll know about it.