I have a grave – and a tombstone. It was a long, slow, painful death; but I finally laid down and died!
The process began with a counseling session with my pastor’s wife, Barbara. She is a sweet, compassionate and gracious woman. She’s also very courageous, wading into the mire of people’s lives dressed in the Armor of God and armed with the Sword of the Spirit.
I would tell her about some mistreatment or other that I was experiencing. She would commiserate with me for a few minutes, but then with pursed lips, she would slightly shake her head and say those words I hated to hear, “What do you think the Lord is trying to teach you in this?”
It was like having a needle “scritch” across a record!
“No, you don’t understand. This is what they did, this is how they are treating me.” I felt hopeless, confused, like I was sinking.
“Tami, is God in control?”
“Then, while He did not cause this to happen, He allowed it. If He allowed it, there must be something in it for you to learn, don’t you think?”
Ugh! I hated those conversations. In the end, I would see the truth of what she was saying and have to agree that there was indeed something in me that needed to be changed.
Another phrase she often stated was this: “But it’s not about you; it’s about Jesus.”
This always came on the heels of a confession that I had not received validation from people for whatever it was I thought I was called to do: teach, write, sing, etc.
For instance, I wanted to sing a solo with our worship team. After all, I have a great heart for worship…it’s what I live for. No one else saw my “potential,” though. As a result, I was passed over time and again. That really hurt. I wanted to hear that I was right, they were wrong…then I wanted her to “fix” the problem.
“Is worship about you? Will Jesus be glorified – or will you? What are you really after here?” She asked these questions warmly, her eyes probed the depths of my own.
Barb is great at getting to the heart of the issue. The Lord has given her an incredible gift of discernment and tons of wisdom to go with it.
I finally had to be honest with myself and admit that I wanted to use worship to gain approval and acceptance from others. Ouch! That smarted.
Once I saw my true motive, she would encourage me to talk to Jesus about what was uncovered, give me a chance to repent, and ask the Lord to give me a pure heart.
We went through this process countless times, and about numerous topics.
“We have to learn to die to ourselves. That’s what the Lord is after. Until we are dead to our sin, we cannot be alive in Christ. Life does not revolve around us. We don’t want to promote ourselves. After all, who can we save? If at the end of life, these people know how wonderful we are, but don’t know Jesus, what will happen to them?”
She has a great way of putting things into perspective.
Dead. Hmm. Mentally, I just couldn’t get there…
…so I went into my back yard…
and dug a grave.
Not a big one, but one big enough and deep enough
to bury a photo of myself.
Then I made a tombstone and set it on top.
Now I have a grave. I can mentally see myself as “dead.”
This is not a move I recommend for the faint-hearted.
Jesus was obviously pleased with my desire to live fully for Him, for after that I began to be passed over, ignored, and overlooked almost daily.
It hurt – but then, dying hurts.
Then glorious things began to come my way. He began to use me in prominent ways. He could because my goal was no longer to promote me, but to make His name known.
Sometimes my stinky old flesh rises up from the grave. I can tell when the “old me” is up running around, though. People are repelled. I’m obnoxiously obvious by the rotted stench of my pride.
The process is repeated: confess, repent, revisit the grave, ask for help to make my life about Jesus and not about me.
Being dead has its benefits:
I don’t have to take things personally anymore – it’s not about me.
I can serve without caring if anyone notices – it’s not about me.
I can tell others how much Jesus means to me – He gets the glory
I don’t have to “do more” or “try harder” – what can a dead person do to improve themselves?
Approval comes from the Lord alone. He is the One I seek to please. (Galatians 1:10 – Do I now persuade men? Or do I seek to please men, or God? For if I still pleased men, I could not be a bondservant of Christ.”)
FREEDOM! The freedom to become the person Jesus created me to be.
The day I “died” was the best day of my life!