Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Leaving Me Behind

John Calvin understood what makes relationships work. He experienced both wonderful relationships (in his marriage and friendships) and unpleasant relationships (with church and city leaders) and he knew the Word of God deeply. What then, did he proclaim as the God-glorifying pattern of relating to one another in covenant relationships - in the church and marriage? He applied again what Jesus and the Apostle Paul proclaimed: self-denial. Here's a look at Jesus, Paul and then Calvin speaking to our need:

What Jesus said:
"“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it." - (Luke 9:23-24 ESV)

What Paul said:
"Submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ. Wives submit to your own husbands, as to the the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her,
(Ephesians 5:21-25 ESV)

And here's what I read from Calvin this morning:
"Let us submit to each other in all humility.  If this is difficult for us, let us more earnestly work at it until God has mastery of us and until we have denied ourselves.  For we must leave behind everything that pertains to our nature and preserve the sacred union that God has placed among us by making us one body." - John Calvin

Now here are some thoughts that have been simmering in my mind for a while now:
If I am to follow Jesus and become a blessing to all His people, especially those with whom I am in a direct relationship, I must give up my right to be the way that I am. It's not giving up who I am; it's giving up that stubborn will that says "This is how I am and how I like things to be and if you do not accommodate me, I won't serve you." Service on those conditions is not the service to which Jesus calls us - it's not serving at all. It's the stuff that destroys relationships and their potential for magnifying the grace of Jesus, and it has to go. When it does go - when self is denied, when my life is given up for Jesus, when the will is submitted (wife to husband) or the life laid down (husband for wife), when we "leave behind everything that pertains to our nature", we do not become less of ourselves, but more of who God created us to be.

For example, I have an inclination towards extreme aestheticism - I adore beauty and abhor ugliness.
If I will only serve God and others in ways that allow me to keep my life pretty;
if I make my husband and perhaps, children, bow to my ruling desire to maintain beauty and order, or I won't be happy, watch out!;
if I will not stoop to serve in an ugly or messy situation, I have not yet learned to follow Jesus.

Indeed, the beauty-loving person that God made me begins to be lost in the very midst of my attempts to save it. The ugliness that I abhor enters into my heart, and the peace and order that I crave disappears from the relationships that are most important to me. "Whoever would save his life will lose it".
But if I leave behind what pertains to my nature, if I shower my husband with hugs and kisses even when he has not organized his papers on the kitchen counter for two weeks, and I don't stop speaking kindly to the old person at church who has hairy moles and bad breath, if I love Jesus my Savior too much to let my natural preferences get in the way of following Him, I will find my desire for beauty being satisfied in seeing my own heart conformed to Him, and my relationships glorifying His grace.

What "pertains to your nature"? Leaving it behind for Jesus might be the happiest thing you ever did.

1 comment:

Helen said...

Wonderful meditation here. Thanks!