As a Christian, you will never truly live until you realize you were born to die. Marriage and parenting are fertile seedbeds to help us grow in this understanding and practice. In fact, marriage will frequently irritate us if we don’t learn to accept our need to learn how to die.
Jesus tells us Christianity is all about taking up our cross daily (Luke 9:23). Paul says that he “dies” every day (1 Cor. 15:31). When we remember we were born to die, every day gives us an opportunity to die to selfishness, personal demands, self-centeredness, and even our own comfort.
We die when we take a hit vocationally to serve our spouse and children over our career, when we say, “I want to excel as a husband/wife more than I want to excel as an employee/business owner. When the two conflict, my spouse wins.”
We die when we come home tired and seek to serve instead of be served. We die when we pray, “Lord, give me a second wind so I can give more to my spouse and kids than I gave to those at the office.”
We die when we figure out where our spouse is at in the evening and set our agenda accordingly. Does he/she need a night off? Do they need to get out of the house and do something fun? Do they need to vent or do they need help to forget something that is stressing them out?
We die when our first thought in the morning and our recommitment in the evening is, “Lord, how can I bless my family in the next few hours?”
We die when we’re having a disagreement with our spouse and mentally force ourselves to think about what is truly best for everyone involved rather than how we can win the argument.
We die when we notice a spouse or child starting to veer off-course and muster the courage to say something instead of just remaining silent. Perhaps we grew up with the mindset of “don’t rock the boat” but now realize that not saying anything would be selfish and fearful, a sign of weakness, not godliness.
We die when a child awakens in the middle of the night and instead of figuring out whose “turn” it is, we get up as quickly as possible so our spouse won’t be awakened.
We die when the money we earn is no longer ours, but the family’s. It doesn’t matter who earned it or what we think we deserve. What matters is what use will most bless our family.
We may, at times, resent doing all this. We might want and even expect our spouse to take the hit vocationally. We may want to be served instead of to serve. We will, on occasion, want our family to read our mood, and wish that they would pray about how they might bless us. We might enjoy winning arguments and keeping the peace instead of pursuing holiness. That’s why Jesus says we have to “die.” A blessing-others attitude doesn’t come naturally. If we don’t pursue it, it won’t pursue us. We have to choose it. We have to take control of our thoughts. We have to willingly give way. We have to crucify the self-absorbed person within.
Why do all this? Because when we learn to die, we begin to truly live. I don’t know why it is true when Jesus says, “It is better to give than to receive,” only that it is. Dying to selfishness creates a new kind of satisfaction where we think, “This is who God created me to be.” Joy replaces resentment. Peace pushes out anger. It is far more satisfying to live with the wonder of what God is doing in us than with frustration over what God is not doing in others.
What kind of soul/mindset/witness are you choosing in the way you view family life? Do you resent dying, or are you learning to welcome it? Choose to die so that you can truly live.
Gary Thomas, GaryThomas.com