After I had completed six months of intense individual and group counseling, my therapist kicked me out of her office saying, “Go! You are healed! You don’t need me any more.” I was feeling great about all that I had overcome and how much I had grown and matured through the process. However, it didn’t take long before I realized that this dying to self thing wasn’t a one-time shot. I had mistakenly assumed that I had arrived at a rock-solid place of commitment to a pure lifestyle, never to waver or budge.
After all, once you are dead, you can’t get any more dead, right? But this initial dying to self experience was only the beginning. My living sacrifice kept crawling off the altar as selfishness, anger, and pride continued to rear their ugly heads. If I was going to continue to put on my robe of righteousness, I had to learn to die to myself on a daily basis. I frequently meditated on the following scripture for the spiritual strength to keep dying over and over as needed.
“If any of you wants to be my follower… you must
put aside your selfish ambition, shoulder your cross, and follow me.
If you try to keep your life for yourself, you will lose it.
But if you give up your life for my sake and for the sake of the Good News, you will find true life.” (Mark 8:34-35)
Do you want to live as the spotless bride of Christ? If so, consider the main thing that Jesus said is required — putting aside our selfish ambition and following Him. What might this look like? Whenever we are tempted to do anything that would pose a threat to our righteousness and bring disappointment to our Bridegroom’s heart, we do whatever it takes to resist the temptation and remain pure.
During one of the many seasons in which God was teaching me other ways I needed to die to myself, I felt convicted that I should no longer have private telephone conversations with a particular married man who would call me frequently while my husband was at work. While it initially felt rude not to return this man’s phone calls, I knew that if Italked with him the conversation would eventually turn flirtatious, as it most often did. We didn’t have caller ID back then, so I had to let the answering machine screen all my calls. Every time the caller hung up without leaving a message, I figured it was probably him. At one point, I wanted to pick up the phone so badly, but a red Sharpie marker sitting on the counter caught my eye. I sensed God saying, “Remember how I willingly died for you, Shannon. Now willingly obey me and die to yourself. Don’t go play in the mud. Remain white and pure for me. Put aside your selfish ambition. Follow me. I’ll lead you to a much more peaceful season of your life, if you’ll let me.”
So rather than pick up the phone, I picked up the Sharpie marker instead. I drew big red circles on the palms of my hands as a reminder that I’ve been crucified with Christ. I was determined to die to myself so that Christ could live more fully in and through me.