Forgetting We Have Died
In her inspiring book A Million Little Ways, Emily P. Freeman writes on the problem (perhaps blessing!) of critics in our lives. Though specifically in the context of making and creating art, the chapter speaks to the many ways we hear & receive criticism and how to handle our offenses when it seems others are coming against us. She says,
We are offended when we are hurt. We are offended when they misunderstand. We are offended when they don't acknowledge our feelings. We are only offended because we forget we have died.
If there's one thing certain to change your life, it's death. "For you have died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God." (Col. 3:3).
We live false lives when we hold on to the old life and refuse to acknowledge our death.
I. love. this.
I want to chew on it and mull over it and tease it out over the course of days and weeks and ask God to show me what it means...I have died.
My life? The one separated from Christ Jesus? Dead. Does not exist any longer. The life I live NOW, I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me. If my very breath is pumping in and out of my lungs by His grace, then how much more so do I belong to Him heart, soul, intellect, personality? And you? In all your differences from me? How we love some of the same things, but maybe communicate totally differently about them and how we don't see eye to eye on that one issue and how we feel differently about crowds and gatherings and quiet time, but how we both adore our kids and the Word Made Flesh? You who belong to Him and who are made in His image, even so different, your very life is His, too.
And if our lives are His, joined to His Spirit, then the things that come against our pursuit of contentment and faithfulness to His Word are coming against His life in us.
Here we sit, thinking that it is up to us to do it. Well, God gave me a brain! we say, as if salvation was all there is to this walk and once we are awakened to new life, we're on our own. Forgive me for sounding juvenile, but can I just say, AS IF!? We are not on our own to battle discord and discontent! And, contrary to popular opinion, Jesus is not indwelling you to "help you" battle it. Jesus indwells you to do battle for you.
We who struggle with comparison, with greed, with vanity. We who sit in silence before God and wrestle with anxiety and depression. We who confront sexual sin and disordered eating and envy and thoughts that breathe death... Why do we battle? We forget we have died. We have died and been raised to new life in Christ Jesus, the very Son of God.
We are not absolved of Christian responsibility, by no means! Paul writes to the Colossians that "for this purpose also I labor striving according to His power, which mightily works within me." (Col1:29, emphasis added). There is work to be done, but the power that he speaks of is a resource and ability belonging to God, not to ourselves. In the second book of Peter, in the first chapter, there is this whole list of things we "do" - maybe you've heard it before: "...apply diligence, supply moral excellence, knowledge, self-control, perseverance...". We can add "pursue contentment" to this list mentally and it easily becomes a checklist of things we think we are to accomplish. But backing up a moment and starting with verse two, we discover a freeing reality: "Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord; seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence."
God-life has been inserted into us. We have this divine nature. Our Spirit has been joined to His and any pursuit of Christlikeness is done by His power, through His power.
That's how we can confront discontent in the small things and in the deep silences.
That's how we can resist temptation and "set our minds on things above, not on the things that are on earth".
Because we have died and have been raised with Christ, His power enables us to "keep seeking things above", things that bring Him glory.
We can battle discontent, but we must confess we are not the ones doing the fighting.
Take a deep breath, sister. Those things you daily battle and believe you must conquer, those thoughts that will not leave you alone, those echoing words from a critic, the heartache and the waiting...He is enough. His life indwells you to respond to these things through you, as you. It doesn't make sense and feels a whole lot like "doing it yourself" sometimes, except you have died. When you were raised up, it was and is IN CHRIST.
So when you meet that discontent, that grief, that anxiety or temptation and you say Jesus, this is coming against Your life in me - DO something!... He does. It requires attention, discernment, obedience. But He moves in us to respond, He moves as us to act, His divine nature coming through your personality and in your words to do battle against those things that threaten us.
I am going to keep engaging this. There's a great deal more to it than I quite know how to assess or respond to, which I suppose is what is meant by this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory...