There are deaths to be died. Daily deaths. Jesus said, “If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23). These smaller, daily deaths are not without great pain and suffering.
As I chase after Christ, I’m collecting wounds. Each act of dying to myself leaves a scar. Some damages are bigger than others, but most are invisible to human eyes. These daily deaths often leave me a little bit more broken than the previous day, a little bit needier for my father.
In order to deny myself, my plans and dreams, I must release my death grip on my expectations. I’m having to relinquish my hold on the life I had planned with Gracious adopted into our family. In her book, A Path Through Suffering, Elisabeth Elliot writes, “We let go of our hold of things we held very dear. Things that once were counted as gain we now count as loss, and out of what seems emptiness come beauty and richness.”
This letting go process has been messy business for me. Releasing my hold on what Team Britton looks like has not been voluntary. When Gracious died, my plans for my future died with her. I collected a new wound. More brokenness. More neediness. But beauty is slowly starting to rise from these ashes (Isaiah 61:3). Beauty is coming in the form of “the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord” (Philippians 3:8).
Like Christ, my obedience has caused me to suffer. I followed my father down the path he called me to, but it didn’t end where I thought it would. It ended in pain and longing. There is great tension between wanting my will and wanting to desire his. God wants me to submit to his will knowing that it will crucify my own. He desires my obedience even when it hurts me to give it. In doing this, he’s giving me the great gift of knowing him more. I am learning, in small ways, to identify with Christ’s suffering as he obeyed his father’s will.
Before Jesus was crucified, he prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done” (Luke 22:42). Jesus wanted to obey his father while fully realizing the cost of his obedience. He felt the tension between two wills, too. He chose to submit to his father’s will. His obedience meant death for him, but it meant life for me. He conquered death once and for all so that his people might have eternal life through him. In God’s paradoxical economy, death is the gateway to life.
There are deaths to be died. But these deaths give way to life. Am I brave enough to die to my will so that I can live in his? In mercy, God gives me the grace to die daily to myself for his glory and for my growth in Christlikeness. The relinquishing of my desires is a work of spectacular grace.
My hands are not holding what I anticipated they would be by now. I imagined walking hand in hand with my daughter. But my good father has taken my empty hands into his loving ones. He comforts me as I mourn her death. He comforts me as I mourn the death of my dreams.
For now, I continue to chase after Christ. I continue to die these daily deaths. But one day, my pursuit of him will be complete. I’ll stand before him and see all my wounds healed in him. This day, this glorious day, will mark the end of death forever. There will be no more deaths to die. All my daily deaths will be proved more than worth it on that day.
Martin Luther said, “There are two days in my calendar: this day and that day.” Until that day, I press on. I die daily deaths. I rely on his grace in the tension to release my grip on the things not meant for me to hold. I humbly offer him my empty, wounded hands. My heavenly father accepts my open and outstretched hands and is pleased with what he sees. That’s enough for me.