Jesus tells me to deny myself. What does that mean? How do I do that?
After all, I can’t help but be me; me is who I am. I can’t believe that you would by your grace allow me to be born into this world as the genetic result of the unions of so many particular people before me and then tell me to deny that I am who I am. I can’t believe that you would by your grace cause me to be born into this particular historical period, into this particular social milieu, into my particular family, and with my particular gifts and then tell me to deny that I am who I am.
Yet there it is in your Book: Jesus says that I am to deny myself, to take up my cross, and to follow him.
How can I deny myself and still be myself?
Does it have to do with the limiting influence of all of the factors that go into making me who I am? As blessed as I am to have been born to the people to whom I was born, in the time that I was born, and in the setting in which I was born, those blessings also serve to limit my worldview and my perspective. My default setting is to see myself and to see the world as “my people” and as “my culture” do. Maybe to deny myself is to live beyond the limits that naturally characterize my life.
Does it have to do with my pride? It is a very short step from self-awareness to self-absorption; I am all too prone to think way more highly of myself than I ought to think and to value my life above the lives of all others. Since Jesus was determined to give himself away, even if it meant his death, maybe to deny myself means to value the lives of others at least as highly as I value my own—and maybe even to move toward valuing their lives more than I value mine.
Does it come down to learning to look to you for the ultimate meaning of my life? After all, my life is your gift and only you know what my life could and should mean if I would live it as fully as you intend for me to live it. Perhaps so long as I insist on living my life my way I choose to accept unnecessary limitations on it. Perhaps if I can somehow learn to see my life the way you see it and to let you take my life wherever you want it to go I will learn that the less I think about me and the less I act on my own behalf the more alive I will become.
O God, your Son Jesus tells me to deny myself; I want to obey. Please show me how …