What does die to self really mean? When it states this in scripture it seems far away, a distant and vague commandment. How exactly do I die to self? What does this mean?
As a mother I have begun to experience a form of death. Not a die to self sort of death, but a death of individuality and personality. I have slowly given myself over to motherhood, loosing myself in the process. Has anyone else experienced this, or am I just living in crazy town: population 1? I for so long have tied my identity to where I am in life. I was a music kid in high school and one of the “smart” girls. I was the 17 year old girl engaged before her senior year of high school. Then I was that weird 18 year old wife. Then a complexly new identity was born in March of 2011: mother.
It hit me like a ton of bricks this morning on my drive home from dropping my oldest of at school; the realization that I was not embodying the commandment to die to self. When my 18 month old got up at 4 this morning and then again at 4:45 and then again at 5:15 I was exhausted and frustrated and angry. I am not a morning person by any stretch of the imagination, so when I am awoken before 6:00 am by a crying child I am anything but kind and compassionate. Don’t get me wrong I’m not yelling at the poor little guy who just needs a mommy snuggle. But I am not racing up those stairs with a happy heart ready and willing to serve and love on my little one. I am stumbling and stomping up the stairs complaining that it’s freezing and mumbling something along the lines of “this is why some animals eat their young”.
In that moment on that long car ride home I realized that dying to self isn’t some elaborate scene where I am martyred for my faith. Dying to self is refusing selfishness in the little moments of my life. It is played out when my husband makes a snide remark about the laundry or the dishes after he’s had a really difficult day and I refuse to give myself over to my emotions and instead of attacking right back, giving him some grace. It is exemplified when I get up at 3:30 and then 4:00 and then 4:30 and then finally give up at 5:00 and get up for the day with my one and a half year old. Dying to self is reading to my 6 year old when all I want to do is curl up with a good book of my own and be left alone.
I came across a beautiful passage this week in 1 Corinthians 5:18 “So, my dear brothers and sisters be strong and steady, always enthusiastic about the Lords work, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless”. We are to forget who is benefiting from our hard work and not allow bitterness to creep in. We are to bring to the front of our minds that no matter what we are doing and no matter who is benefiting, the work we are doing is ultimately for the Lord. He sees us getting up before the sun to care for our little ones. He knows that our hearts are heavy when we watch our child navigate a difficult circumstance.
See beautifully broken women, we have a choice: a choice that we have to make over and over and over again, hundreds of times each day. We have to make the choice to love our children and husbands even when it’s the last thing we want to do.