I attended an event recently and was reacquainted with a phenomenal young woman, who is actively pursuing her purpose in God. I was recounting to her some of my experiences of the last two years, especially being called by God to a place that feels desolate. She said, “God will strip everything away in order for you to die so that He can be glorified in you.” I forgot that!
This is not a new situation to me; I’ve had these kinds of experiences over and over again. Like that time I really wanted to graduate in May and begged God to allow me to do so, and He said, “You have to love and honor me whether I let you graduate in May or not.” I told the Lord that I wanted His will to be done more than I wanted mine. I died to the outcome…I graduated in May.
Or the time I really dedicated my life to The Lord and all hell broke loose; everything that could go wrong did — job, marriage, children, etc. I said, “God, why is all this happening; why aren’t you protecting me?” And He said, “Keep your eyes on me, not the situation.” I died to having it my way…I came out with my marriage intact and stronger, children healthy and a better job.
Or when my department became embroiled in craziness at work because of someone’s ego issues. It was one of the worst times in my life! I was depressed, bitter and very upset with God for not sparing me. Then, God sent me to a professional development conference at Bryn Mawr College. By the time I returned to work, I was markedly different; I used to deflect compliments regarding my skills and talents believing that if I acknowledge them, I was being arrogant. God told me my gifts and talents were part of my “armamentarium,” my tools for battle, and that not acknowledging them prevented Him from using them optimally through me. I died to who I was…I went to the conference a victim, I returned to work a soldier in God’s army ready for battle.
And what about my recent experience of jumping off the cliff (see my last blog entitled “Going ‘All In’ to Get Your Wings”) and having a Noah moment, where God called me to do something that has not been done before. I knew that there was a high degree of risk of failure and looking foolish, but I also knew that I was called by God to do it. Everything I thought I was or was important to me has been put to the test. In fact, I saw a vision of myself as being broken into small pieces, placed in a furnace for melting — smaller pieces melt faster, God told me — and being poured into a new mold. I died to my old identity…I now have a new outlook and renewed energy for the future.
With each experience, I had to die to who I was, what I had and all that I desired in order to do God’s will and to receive what He has for me. Jesus put it this way:
Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. (John 12:24 NASB)
I mentioned in a previous blog The Dream Giver by Bruce Wilkinson. The main character, Ordinary, was given a big dream by God. At one point in his journey, God asked him to give the dream back, or in other words, to die to it:
Then the Dream Giver spoke again. “Come higher,” he said…Ordinary was overcome with happiness. His Big Dream was finally within reach.
“Ordinary,” said the Dream Giver.
“Yes,” said Ordinary.
“Give me your Dream.”
“What do you mean?” Ordinary asked. “It’s my Dream. You’re the one who gave it to me.”
“Yes. And now I’m asking you to give it back.”
Ordinary was shocked, but he didn’t even have to think. “I can’t,” he told the Dream Giver. “And I won’t.”
Ordinary paced back and forth along the rim of the summit, trying to understand what had just happened. Why would the Dream Giver want to take away his Big Dream? How could he even ask? Especially now, when Ordinary had come so far. It wasn’t fair. It wasn’t even right.
Then Ordinary had an idea. Maybe there was a way out.
“Do I have to give it back?” he asked.
“No,” the Dream Giver said. “Some choose not to.”
So he had a choice. He could keep his Dream. But instead of relief at the thought, Ordinary felt confused and sad. What was he going to do?
He slumped down on the rock. He thought for a long while. Finally, he saw what was at stake. He could please the Dream Giver and surrender his Dream. Or he could go against the Dream Giver’s wishes and keep his Dream, but risk losing the Dream Giver’s pleasure.The choice broke his heart.
Time passed. Ordinary thought, and thought some more. The sun set and rose again.
The Dream Giver had always kept his promises. He had always been good to Ordinary, even when he was nowhere in sight and nothing seemed to make sense.
Then Ordinary knew what he had to do—no, what he wanted to do. He carried his knapsack to the edge of the rock and sat down. He took out his journal and his long white feather, and he wrote his last entry about his Big Dream.
“I am surrendering my Dream to you, Dream Giver. I’ve decided that it’s you that I can’t go on without.”
Later that day, Ordinary reached the river. No one waited for him there. He had no Dream or plan now. Yet he felt a deep peace. He waded into the river and swam across, pulling his knapsack behind him. At the far bank, he climbed out. And the first thing he saw was his journal, lying open on the grass. His heart racing, he picked it up and read:
“Ordinary, I am giving you back your Dream. Now you can use it to serve me. Now you can achieve truly Great Things. And I am with you always.”
…Now when Ordinary looked at his surrendered Dream, he saw that it had grown. Now his Dream was no longer only about Ordinary. Now it was part of the Dream Giver’s Big Dream for the whole world.
Ordinary had to die to the dream — through obedience–before he could move forward to pursue the dream God’s way. What a contradiction! So, in God’s plan, death, through obedience, is really the best way to live!
*Title taken from the movie “Death Becomes Her” released in 1992 by Universal Pictures.