(Please note: Reach Out and book give-away winners listed below.)
Each day, we are engaged in a cosmic battle, a battle over self. It is a war between entitlement and sacrifice, between self-love and sacrificial love. And each day, God gives us a choice–to squelch His Spirit, His love, His still small voice as we fight for our rights, or to lay it down, allowing Him to reign and love others through us.
Are we aware of the consequences–of what’s at stake? When we’re consumed with self, we don’t even notice the woman in the grocery aisle, the man at the gas station, or perhaps our spouse coming home from work discouraged and exhausted.
In each encounter, God is whispering, tugging, urging us on as His embassadors. If we’re not careful, if we’re not continually focused on our Savior, our inner voice of self-love may scream louder.
Two weeks ago, our family took a trip to Odenton, Maryland to visit family. It was a wonderful time of fun and exploration–a time for me to see my brother, whom I hadn’t in over five years. But amidst our fun, I soon found myself on a cosmic battleground.
All week, God had impressed on my heart the need to lay myself down, to seek not my own glory, not my will, but His. To be like a wildflower tucked in a nook in the valley, ever-growing, reaching for the sun, even if no one notices.
And then Friday came–our last day in Maryland. I started the day at a surrender zenith, ready to die to myself and be an active instrument of God’s mercy and grace. I was determined to live out the truth God had showed me one morning in 1 Peter chapter four.
“So then, since Christ suffered physical pain, you must arm yourselves with the same attitude he had, and be ready to suffer, too. For if you have suffered physically for Christ, you have finished with sin. 2 You won’t spend the rest of your lives chasing your own desires, but you will be anxious to do the will of God” (1 Peter 4:1-2, NLT). (Emphasis mine.)
As I read the passage, I thought of a dear sister in Christ dying of brain cancer. She’s going through a rough time. She’s lost her sight, and her speech has become difficult. But through it all, her heart remains centered in Christ. Each day, her life shouts out His praises and points everyone around her to the cross.
I wanted to be like her! To praise God regardless of what I faced, to be so surrendered to Him, so focused on His love and purposes, that my life radiates His love and glory.
My determination was quickly undone, not by a fight against cancer but instead, something as trivial as crab cakes. And because of my quickly rising self-love, I tainted Christ’s name.
That afternoon, we decided to begin a search for crab-cakes. My husband had heard Baltimore was famous for them. This was the one thing he’d been looking forward to, the one thing he longed to do before we headed home. Being the loving, supportive, self-sacrificing … (uh-hem. I shift uncomfortably and avoid your gaze) wife I … long to be, I wholeheartedly agreed, and we all climbed into vehicles and headed downtown.
Stepping out of the van and into a dingy and smelly parking garage, my grumble meter sky-rocketed. When we reached street level, things–and the smell–got worse. A quick glance told me we weren’t in the best part of town. I clutched my purse to my chest, and my sister and I exchanged glances.
“Can we go somewhere else?” I’m sure my voice held a pleading tone.
All the women agreed. So, we clamored back into our vehicles and drove to the harbor, filled with numerous clean restaurants–any one of which would mesh well with my germo-phobe preferences. Yes, I was pleased. This would do quite nicely.
But unfortunately, we kept walking, leaving the trendy harbor area with its cute shops and alluring smells far behind. Memories of the area we’d just left still fresh in my mind, I watched the clean–did I mention clean?–restaurants fade behind us, my agitation growing. Snippets of my morning devotion came to mind, calling me to die to myself, embracing each moment (bacteria and all) in full surrender. Relinquishing all rights and expectations.
But I wasn’t listening. I was too focused on me.
The restaurant we ended up at was anything but five-star. The bathroom smelled as if it had been doused in urine. The carpet looked as if it’d been splotched with car grease, and the menus needed to be soaked in sanitizer. It was three o’clock, well past lunchtime, and I was starved, irritated … and a bit queasy, as my germo-phobiness waged war with my hunger.
Sitting with a firm scowl, arms crossed, nose wrinkled … Okay, so maybe I didn’t behave that badly–on the outside, but my heart was pretty grungy. Grungier than the floor, and needless to say, I didn’t hide my disgust well. Oh, what a role model I was for my daughter!
Then it came time to pray.
The reality of my witness–or lack there of–hit me in the gut. I thought of the waitress who watched me, frumping, longing to be anywhere else but there. Did I want her to know I was a Christian? Or would it be better, for Christ’s sake, if she didn’t?
Last Thursday, Nikki Arana asked a powerful question: Would you share your faith if it cost you your life. (You can read her post here.)
I’ve often wondered about that–how I would respond if I lived in a country filled with persecution. If, because of my faith, I faced unemployment, physical pain, or even death. I don’t have an answer, but I do know, in the day-to-day when I am called to *live out* my faith as Christ’s ambassador, I often fall short. Not in the face of extreme danger, but instead, in the face of self, over something as trivial as crab cakes.
Lord Jesus, help me to die to myself, not just in the big, courageous moments, but in those day-to-day encounters–standing in line at a grocery store or eating at a dirty restaurant. Help me, in all things, to be alert to my witness. Help me to radiate your sacrificial love–the love that drove you to a cross, for me.
Let’s talk about this! Join us at Living by Grace as we talk about offering our whole selves to God as a living sacrifice, seeking to know God and make Him known.
The Bible tells us we are Christ’s ambassadors–His representatives. Are we representing Him well, or has our self-love tainted His image? What can we do today to radiate His sacrificial love and glory?
I also want to congratulate our two winners this month.
Tanya Eavenson, when you retweeted Nikki Arana’ s post, Consider it All Joy, you were entered in her book give-away drawing. Congratulations! You won a copy of her fabulous novel, the Next Target! I’ll be contacting you shortly to get that book to you.
And this month’s Reach Out winner is Vona Elkins with her touching story, When Lives Intertwine. Thanks, Vona, for sharing your story with us! I’ll be contacting you soon to get your gift basket to you. (click here to see what you won.)
Would I have the necessary strength if it became dangerous to be a Christian? I don’t know. I hope so. But in the meantime, exercising my Christian muscles in public is good training. I’m talking about being more patient, kind, and generous (even if it hurts), and less grumpy too (especially with my husband). I rarely see a crucifix being worn around the neck any more–not that every Christian religion uses such as symbol in their practice. But when I see one, I instantly view that person as more approachable, and I have never been disappointed.
Amen, Cynthia! I loved your emphasis on how you behaved around and treated your husband. It’s easy to “let our guard down” when we walk through our front door, putting on our “It’s all about me” cloak, but God wants us to show love to *everyone*, beginning in our home with those we love the most. Thanks for the great comment!
Jennifer,Thanks! I am excited to win a gift basket. God Bless.
As always, I am humbled by your blog and find myself convicted, too!
Your post ties in (somewhat) with my blog for today. May I have your permission to reprint your post–giving you full credit of course,
Of course, Edwina! And thank you for saying that. I hope you have a blessed day!
Great post, Jennifer. It is hard to get rid of self, isn’t it? And it creeps up so quickly and sometimes softly that we hardly notice it. I would love to repost on Under the Cover of Prayer.
Yes, it is, Jan! And of course you can repost this. Thanks for asking! Have a great weekend!
Jen, this was very thought provoking. I need to get out of my head
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Thanks, Beth, and me, too! Hopefully next time I’ll do better.
As always, Jennifer, excellent words. You gave me a lot to think about.
Thanks, Elaine! I hope you’ve had a great Labor Day weekend!
Jennifer, as I read this I couldn’t help but examine the many ways I fall short in the every day living out my faith. All too often we are looking taking giant leaps of faith but it’s the every day things that shows just how faithful we are to obeying His Word. Thanks so much for the food for thought.