C.S. Lewis wrote: “Nothing that has not died will be resurrected.”
“For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it (Matthew 16:25).
This statement by Jesus is one of the great paradoxical realities of Kingdom living: that in dying we find new life. It’s not only paradoxical; it’s radical. We don’t usually like the idea of dying. We are pretty committed to keeping everything together. We want God as long as we can still have our successes. We like the idea of being on a journey of faith as long as it doesn’t require, well…too much faith.
We long for the Promised Land as long as we don’t have to leave too much behind. We want to make space for God as long as it doesn’t intrude to radically on our packed schedules and conflicting priorities.
We want God’s will as long as it doesn’t make us look too foolish. We want love as long as it’s not too inconvenient.
The death that Jesus pointed to in Matthew 16 is metaphorical death whereby in dying to ourselves we make way for the part in us that would pray, “Not my will but yours be done.”
“Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds” (John 12:24). Nature gives testimony to this same truth: A seed must fall to the ground and die before it can bring forth new life.
This process is important to pay attention to.
We experience all kinds of dyings and risings every day. When something in our life dies, whether it is the death of our youth, the death of our wholeness, the death of our dreams….this presents us with a choice. The same choice faced by the disciples when Christ was resurrected.
We can cling to the old and refuse to receive the new life Jesus offers…but change cannot happen when we grasp for the old, cling to it and won’t let it go.
The second choice is to release the old life. By letting go of the old we open ourselves to the possibility of the new to spring forth.
Life is full of hurts, losses, unfairness, disappointments, shattered dreams, and unreached potential. We grieve these losses in our lives. But, unless we are able to release our cherished idea of what could or should have been, we will never be able to receive the new life, the resurrection out of loss that Jesus offers in their place.
Even in our spiritual journey when God begins to do a new thing in us, old things must pass away. In order to fully experience in his resurrection life in our lives there is much in us that needs to die; false attachments, greed, anger, impatience and stinginess. This dying to self is real and it allows the Spirit to empower us to live new lives of freedom and selfless love.
“As long as we cling to life as we understand it, we cling to a pinched and deadly image of things, an image heavily conditioned by our egos, our social programming, our limited knowledge of the options. But when we are willing to let go of life as we want it to be and allow the larger reality to live in and through us instead, then in our dying we come alive.” Parker Palmer, The Active Life, p. 156
We learn from Jesus that new life can come from death; that we can find meaning in difficult times; that death no longer has the last word… that endings are but embryos of new life…and out of what seems to ruin our lives, our very rescue can begin.
But…Dying is never easy….Dying will take trust. Trust that true life comes only through journeys of death and new life, when we do not grasp onto the old and then allow the new to bless us.
Resurrection… it’s not merely a belief, but a way of living; the only way to really live.
What do you need to let go of in order to receive the life Jesus died to give you?