Denial, self sacrifice and submission- not words you’ll hear much of in our world today. Sacrifice might be a bit more popular because it sounds, well, almost noble, it’s something we can be proud of, our sacrifice for someone else. If we choose it that is. Real self sacrifice as a way of life and not a one off moment is slightly harder to get our head around.
Constantly I think that I am the one who is in the centre of my world. I’m the one in charge, I get to make the decisions about what to do with my time, my money, my friendships, my family. The perfect day is one designed around me and the things I love. If this happens to coincide with hanging out with friends who feel supported by me, then even better.
The words I constantly seem to read in the Bible at the moment point to a bigger reality than me and my world. God, it would appear, is big on the whole self sacrifice thing. Loosing your life, denying yourself, submitting to each other, considering others interests better than our own. Phrases that make us shout back all the cases where we don’t need to act like this. We claim God doesn’t want us to be doormats, that it’s important to work out our own gifts, to serve where it’s appropriate for us to serve, to find our passion and go with that as the best way to live out our lives. But it all comes across as a bit me centric.
Those statements contain grains of truth. Of course, given the choice between two jobs, one involving all the things you are passionate about and one involving all the things you hate it’s probably a good idea to go with the one you are passionate about. I’m just not sure that it’s a right we get to claim. If we are really called to live a life of self denial we might not get to do what we are passionate about all the time. (which sounds like a horrific thing to say in our world and indeed Christian circles). If we are really called to submit our desires in favour of someone else’s we might not get to do what we want to do all the time. Of course the flip side of that is that we might get to do some cool stuff as others submit to us but it’s not a given.
Right now I’m trying to learn about self sacrifice. I have a very good teacher. My son doesn’t know how to submit to me, I’m pretty much submitting to his life at the moment, if he cries I try and soothe him, if he’s hungry at 1.30am and 3.30am and 5.30am I feed him, if he’s happy I laugh along with him. Most of the time this doesn’t feel like a choice, there is much to be said for instinct and what ever crazy hormone that drives me out of bed when I hear his cries. As much as I’d like to stay in bed I can’t. He’s a little bundle of confused need as he tries to figure out this new world, as he slowly gets that the small bundle of fingers in front of his face are attached to him and he can pick things up with them, as he gazes deeply at us, as he smiles at curtains and as his brain starts to understand that he is loved and cared for.
For now there are no more moments alone, there are no films that we watch that are uninterrupted, as I write this I’m also shusshing a very sad tired boy who needs to sleep. There are no holidays in this world. I don’t want sympathy (well, more chocolate would be nice) but I’m thinking that surely this is our life with each other in the kingdom of God (not so sure about the exhausting no sleep bit) we are called to lay down our lives for each other. If you don’t have kids you don’t get let off the all consuming world of denial and self sacrifice. This is our call, to die to self, to live a life of love, to imitate Jesus as he gave up everything. I’m not saying that there aren’t boundaries in this world, that we don’t need wisdom in our love for each other but I think we need to get used to more films being interrupted by our love for one another.
As I write this it does seem bonkers…what do you think? What is denial really all about? I want to put the caveats in all too quickly as it makes me feel more comfortable about how I conduct my life. I don’t like making sacrifices for others (unless they are things I wanted to do anyway, but then are they sacrifices?). Surely there is more to this life than my self fulfillment? What would it mean in our relationships if we were to really submit to each other? How can we let go of our need to control and order our lives and accept that others will be there to look after us in our time of need? How good are we at receiving submission from others?
Your correspondent, unsurprisingly hasn’t wrapped up the issue of denial and self sacrifice well in a pithy blog post.