I love this time of year. I live in the drought-ridden, unusually dry central valley of Bakersfield, California, so during the months of February to March, not only is the weather pleasant, but the hills surrounding my home are bright green with newly sprouted grassy pastures. A good percentage of the remainder of the year, our desert-like climate with its sweltering temperatures changes the moist, verdant hillside to a bone-dry, golden brown.
Since the luscious emerald meadows have reappeared, every day I’ve escaped reality by feasting my eyes and indulging my senses in awe of the sudden new growth. The grassy fields dotted with colorful wildflowers stretching their faces to the sun remind me the once-dormant ground beneath my feet has again produced bountiful beauty. I appreciate this upward cycle of life. I’ve relished and gorged myself on the experience as I enjoy this new, fresh, lively change because I know it won’t be long until the velvety plush hills that make me think of The Sound of Music and Psalm 121 will soon be dehydrated and lifeless.
Lent is the season before Easter, the forty days and forty nights practicing Christians give up something beginning Ash Wednesday all the way through Easter Sunday. Not sure if you’ve decided what you are giving up. In last week’s blog I shared a few ideas.
Let’s talk about paying attention to preparing for Celebration (Easter) Sunday by observing the cycle of death and resurrection. This cycle is central to the Christian faith. Rachel Held Evans suggests we ask ourselves the question, “In what ways is that cycle present in my life right now?”
This week I’ve been meditating on Isaiah 58, Psalm 51, and today John 12:23-25: “Jesus replied, ‘The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. I tell you the truth, 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. The man who lives his live will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.’” Let’s ask ourselves the question, “In what ways is the cycle of death and resurrection present in my life right now?”
God asks us to die to ourselves, to submit to him, to commit to unselfish living. We made this commitment when we said yes and invited Jesus to take control of our lives. How do we work this out in daily living? George Mueller said, “There was a day when I died.” Then bending his head lower, he said, “Died to George Mueller, his opinions, preferences, tastes, and will; died to the world, its approval or censure, died to the approval or blame even of brethren or friends.”
God has been showing me how he wants me to die every day this week. The slow death of self and wrestling with my flesh has to do more with my will than anything else. God asks if I am willing. I’ve said yes. But I am a little slow in acting yes. That’s when God asked me to submit my schedule, my time to Him. The choice to die to myself meant asking God to help me make the right choices every day. It should have been my first inclination to hand my schedule and my to-do list over to God and trust him to accomplish his will; however, being the control freak I am, usually I struggle a bit before I finally let go.
Here’s a list of few opportunities to die that came my way this week:
- Rescued a woman who had run away from the women’s recovery home
- Visited a woman going through chemotherapy treatments
- Went to a park for a playdate with my grandchildren and their mothers
- Hosted a game night for young mothers at my home
- Spent time visiting a missionary recently diagnosed with Alzheimers
Do these activities seem trivial? No big deal? OK, maybe they are, but the bottom line, each one was not anywhere in my thoughts to participate in or even on my to-do list. I chose to trust God with the time I spent planning, arranging and driving to and from each encounter, not to mention the time I spent with the people involved. I had other more important, task-oriented things to do, but when life happened, I said yes and went with it. God taught me a new lesson on thinking eternally. He showed me how to be part of the cycle of death and resurrection by letting go of my plans, expectations, and lists to let his life live through me. God asked me to lose my life in the immediate needs of others.
Here’s a few other suggestions from BibleGateway about how to die to show love during lent.
- Special worship services or additions to regular worship services that focus in various ways on man’s need for repentance. This often takes the form of extra Scripture readings and prayer.
- Some Christians choose to give up a habit or behavior during Lent as an exercise in prayerful self-denial. This might range from something as simple as not drinking soda during Lent to a full-blown program of fasting.
- Some Christians commit to a special devotional activity during Lent—for example, daily Scripture reading, regular prayer for a specific person or topic throughout Lent, or volunteer work in their community.
The choice to observe Lent is a personal one—the whole point is to focus your heart and mind on Jesus during the journey to Easter. More on BibleGateway’s Lent resources.
George Mueller’s secret to living an effective life was that he chose to die to himself. When you and I die to ourselves, our desires, and our plans, we discover the secret of the abundant life. John 12:24 says, “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains by itself alone. But if it dies, it bears much fruit.” Let’s stop trying and start dying.
May I pray for you?
Heavenly Father, thank you for the opportunity to show my love for you. Help us to see and receive opportunities to trust you with our time, talent, and treasures as opportunities to see you provide for others through our death to ourselves. O, Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy upon me—a sinner. Amen.