Though this is not a death you can see, I am most certainly dying. And I never even realized it until tonight. It's amazing what a midnight wakefulness can do for you.
You know my large family that is spread all over the place sends emails constantly? Recently they sent some emails back and forth about their chronic insomnia. All my brothers and sisters seem to struggle with it, as well as my parents. Not only did I lack sympathy, I also just thought they were crazy. But since those emails went out, I have struggled with sleep. Thanks guys. And you're welcome...to a little sympathy.
My man or I sit with our girls each night as they drift off to La-La Land. Sometimes when I "sit" with them, I actually end up lying down for one of two reasons: 1) I'm too tired to sit and/or 2) baby girl talks me into lying down so she can play with my hair. (Baby girl has a serious hair addiction.) The problem with this is probably pretty obvious--I often fall asleep in their bed. This really throws a kink in my evening plans. I don't get to hang with my man for one thing. Moreover, I have to get up at some point and get into my own bed. And, because I didn't actually intend to fall asleep in the girls' bed, I am usually not ready for bed. So, during the move back to my bed, I pit stop in the bathroom for my pre-bed ritual. All of this serves to completely wake me up; so, by the time I crawl into my own bed, I'm wide awake. Then I lay there for an hour or two.
So, tonight I'm laying there with attitude. I'm completely frustrated that I didn't get to hang out with my man, yet again. I'm frustrated with myself for getting into this routine of sitting with the girls (a routine which I now wonder how I'm going to break). I'm frustrated that when I got up, I managed to wake baby girl, so I had to lay back down with her again. I'm frustrated that I copped an attitude with my man when he asked me if I had a good nap. And I'm frustrated that even though I am exhausted, I can not sleep!
So, I'm sorta praying, sorta thinking, when an epiphany starts to surface. It didn't hit me all at once, but instead came into focus little by little, like turning the lens on an old camera (not the digital kind that does all the focusing for you).
First, I realized that I have way too much to be thankful for. I have no reason at all to have such an attitude. I have two beautiful, healthy girls. And they want me around while they fall asleep. Is that really so bad? In a few years, I am going to be longing for these days. I know it.
Secondly, a recurring theology came back to mind (I've mentioned it before in this post and this one), that I am in ministry here, serving Jesus by serving my family. That I am truly to lay down my life for them. That I am to pour out my life, pour it into them, so that they can live and grow.
I've always known that in order to even birth these girls, I had to die a little. Physically. For about four years, I was physically draining life out of myself and pouring into a sweet little body as she grew inside my belly or drank from my breast. For four years, I was either prego or nursing. And my body died a little. Things changed. I'm not as young and fresh as I was before having children. Even my skin is different! Life literally sucked right out of me.
I have ALWAYS known that if someone ever tried to break in my house, or if someone tried to hurt one of my children, or if a fire broke out, or if any other potential harm threatened one of my girls...I've always known, no, I KNOW that I would do anything, ANYTHING, to save and protect my babies. Anything. Including sacrificing my own life. Dying so they could live.
But it never occurred to me until tonight that in order to raise these beauties the way God intends for me to raise them, I have to die now. But this isn't a physical death; I have to die to my selfish desires. Subconsciously I've known it, but tonight I finally got it: This is death I am experiencing.
Let me say it again: This is death we are experiencing. You and me. As we pour ourselves into our little ones, the pain we feel is death. Death to self. And I don't know about you, but no one really told me that this is what parenting would be like. But then again no one really told me that parenting was a ministry. And ministry is a pouring out of self into other people. Ministry is loving God and serving Him by serving others. It is exhausting sometimes. It requires everything a person has to give. And more. We can't do it alone; we need God's strength. Because we are dying. And He is living through us. When we are weak, He is strong. Where we are dying, He is Living.
I can't believe I have lived 34 years and never fully comprehended the idea of dying to self. I've read Bible verses all my life that taught this theology, but never fully comprehended it. Here are a few of the verses that speak of dying to self.
"Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God--this is your true and proper worship." Romans 12:1
"Then He said to them all, 'Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.'" Luke 9:23
"Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires." Galatians 5:24
"I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me." Galatians 2:20
I love that last one. He love me and gave himself for me. He died a physical death so that I may live. I love my girls. I will give myself for them. I will die a spiritual death so that they may know Life in Jesus Christ.
But He did more than just die a physical death. He gave up EVERYTHING for us. His heavenly home, His prominence among the angels, and all that is due Him as the King He is. He was mocked, scorned, despised, beaten, spit upon, and finally hung on a cross.
And I get an attitude when I lose a little sleep. He gave up EVERYTHING. I can give up sleep, and some relaxation time on the couch, and hobbies, and... Die to self. Die to selfish desires.
Knowing this and choosing this doesn't make the process of dying easier. It is still death. And death is painful. Death is not fun. And death isn't always quick. This death is a slow, life-long process. This death will take all I have, my whole life, and more. It will require the strength of Christ. But it will end with Christ. Eternity with the One who gave all for me.
A verse I memorized eons ago came to mind tonight too as I realized the following: Living gives us the opportunity to express our love and appreciation to Christ as we die to our selfish desires and live for Him. But, we just have to hang with it a little while because this life is short and--oh glorious thought!--dying gives us the opportunity to be with Him. Truly, "For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain." Philippians 1:21
And I have to share this one last passage from Philippians 2, The Message. This is a little bit of a reminder for me to keep on doing what I'm supposed to be doing, and to do it cheerfully. And, believing that one day my girls might read all these thoughts I've blogged, this is a little bit of a message to them as well. I want them to know that even if I am poured out as a drink offering on the altar of their faith, I rejoice.
12-13What I'm getting at, friends, is that you should simply keep on doing what you've done from the beginning. When I was living among you, you lived in responsive obedience. Now that I'm separated from you, keep it up. Better yet, redouble your efforts. Be energetic in your life of salvation, reverent and sensitive before God. That energy is God's energy, an energy deep within you, God himself willing and working at what will give him the most pleasure.
14-16Do everything readily and cheerfully—no bickering, no second-guessing allowed! Go out into the world uncorrupted, a breath of fresh air in this squalid and polluted society. Provide people with a glimpse of good living and of the living God. Carry the light-giving Message into the night so I'll have good cause to be proud of you on the day that Christ returns. You'll be living proof that I didn't go to all this work for nothing.
17-18Even if I am executed here and now, I'll rejoice in being an element in the offering of your faith that you make on Christ's altar, a part of your rejoicing. But turnabout's fair play—you must join me in my rejoicing. Whatever you do, don't feel sorry for me.