Lately I’ve been flirting with death.
In 1 Corinthians 15.31, Paul says he dies daily. This is fine for him. But not for me. I’m not okay with it yet.
It’s easier to die once than to die daily.
To die daily is to put to death my will, my comfort, my expectations. It’s to let myself go into the hands of God, and let Him take me where He may. But like I said, I’m not there yet.
There are moments when I commit to follow. But in an instant other forces take over, noise—the lunge for comfort, the thought of control, the chill of fear. Suddenly I withdraw my surrender.
Being in God’s hands doesn’t seem so great anymore. The kind of man I am is revealed: big on promises, small on delivery.
Most mornings I run at a park near my house. There is a man, mid-twenties, who walks in the mornings. When I run by, I say good morning. One day when I pass him, I hear God speak to my heart. He says, “Tell him I love him so much.”
“No, no, no,” is my response. “That’s such a simple thing to say,” I think. “He probably already knows it.” I keep running.
A few days later in prayer, God brings him to mind. “Tell him I love him so much,” He says.
I tell God I will.
I see him again. As I near him, I prepare to give the message. It’s so short, this will be so easy. But just as we cross paths, I change my mind and run past him. “What a stupid thing to say,” I think.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote, “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.”
I’ve been struggling with the death of self. In words I’ve committed to follow God anywhere. It’s the deeds that don’t match up. I promise God, then I break my promises. What shall God do with me? I’m unreliable.
But at least I’m trying.
A few more days pass and I’m running again. Ahead of me I see the man. I know what I must do. I begin to pray. I don’t want to wimp out, can’t wimp out. I don’t know what will happen.
Will he laugh? Will he walk away? It’s so uncertain, so out of my control. This could get uncomfortable. Besides, what difference will this make for him?
I run up alongside him. I stop and say, “Hey, when I run past you, God says I should tell you how much he loves you. So that’s what I’m doing. God really loves you.”
I wait for him to club me.
But he doesn’t. “No one’s ever said that to me before,” he says. Then he explains that a couple of years ago he was in an accident, and all of his loved ones died, and he was the only survivor. He says he thinks this is connected to that.
I think so, too, I say. Then he says, “Have a good day,” and we part.
On my drive to work, I’m thinking about all this—the man, the death of self, the meaning of discipleship. I think about Bonhoeffer and Paul. The car in front stops in the middle of the road. I look around to figure out why. Then a family of ducks waddle across the road. The cars in the other lane stop, too. We all sit there, stopped in the middle of the road, until these ducks pass. When they do, we go on our way.
I think of all the people who helped me get to God, who are still helping me. I decide to keep trying. I’m not good at this dying thing, but it’s still worth a try.