Obedience, even unto death

Two weekends ago I spent my Saturday carefully planting the beautiful plants that I’ve had growing in our dining room since March. My garden this year had grown to be my pride and joy.

I watered it and rotated every pot, every morning to ensure each plant was getting sun in the fickle Colorado spring. I replanted things when they got crowded. But eventually my vegetables got to a point where they simply needed to move into new soil in the great outdoors. I dutifully checked the long-term weather forecast and saw nothing but sun and rain for the foreseeable future. Seemingly the perfect time to plant.

And so, I tilled the soil and planted everything in the cute little garden plot in our yard.

For a week, everything flourished. My veggies seemed happy with the rain and sun and their new room.

garden

And then freaking Colorado weather happened and last Saturday a slushy snow storm blew through. Tuesday night, I stood by the garden fence and surveyed my mostly smushed, dead garden and dramatically thought: Seems about right.

It seems about right because there’s so much about the end of this season that simply feels like a death has occurred, or rather is occurring. Slowly.

My sweet high school girls whom I have spent months (with some, years) winning over, have spontaneously turned into waterfalls in the last week. They hug me goodbye at the end of classes and school days with tears in their eyes because we both know that I won’t be at DSS for much longer.

My heart has felt like it’s shattering into a million pieces as I’ve slowly begun to pack up my classroom, write graduation speeches for kids I’ve been with for four plus years, and sign yearbooks urging kids to follow Jesus… and this blog to keep in touch. (Hashtag: Shameless plugs. Oh well.)

But work isn’t the only place where I feel death occurring.

No. I feel death sneaking into the depths of my heart when I look at my best friends, my roommates, and my wonderful church. When I hear about the weddings that I’ll be missing while in Alaska or see the bumps that I know will bear babies when I’m 2,500 miles away.

These are the moments when I feel death in the midst of such happiness and newness.

It sounds obnoxiously dramatic, I know. But it is death because with each of these wonderful life giving sights or event invitations, I have to die to myself.

I have to die to my career and identity as a teacher at the Denver Street School, and with that death comes the laying to rest of the giggles and fighting with the girls who both feed my soul and suck the life out of me…somehow all at the same time.

I have to die to the false notion that I’m somehow protecting my girls by being a physical presence in their lives. I have to die to my control issues and mom-brain, and the fact that even when they are cussing me out or throwing things at me, that I absolutely love my students from the bottom of my little breaking heart.

I have to die to my desire to be in the same state as one of my best friends after being on opposite sides of the Atlantic Ocean for a year.

I have to let some dreams die and be obedient to the calling that Christ has put in front of me. The calling to lay down my life as I know it, pick up my cross, and follow Him.

It’s been a wrestle, for sure. This process has (re)exposed just how much of a control freak I am underneath my easy-breezy hippie attitude.

I feel like I count the cost of following Jesus daily. In fact, I feel like there’s a small part of my brain that is constantly keeping a running tabulation of just how great the cost of moving to Alaska seems to be.

Some days the cost seems far too high. Those are the days when I dig my heels in, refusing to go to God, let alone want to follow Him anywhere. If I’m being honest, I don’t want to die to myself. I want to live the wonderful life that I claim to have made on my own. I want to stay and grow and keep my feet firmly planted in the Colorado soil.

But some days (few and far between as they may feel lately) God has my head screwed on correctly and He gives me the strength to lay everything down before Him and sing the Rend Collective song that is almost always playing in the back of my head.

“I’m saying yes to You
And no to my desires
I’ll leave myself behind
And follow You

I’ll walk the narrow road
‘Cause it leads me to You
I’ll fall but grace
Will pick me up again

I’ve counted up the cost
Oh, I’ve counted up the cost
Yes, I’ve counted up the cost
And You are worth it

I do not need safety
As much as I need You
You’re dangerous
But Lord, You’re beautiful

I’ll chase You through the pain
I’ll carry my cross
‘Cause real love
Is not afraid to bleed

I’ve counted up the cost
Oh, I’ve counted up the cost
Yes, I’ve counted up the cost
And You are worth it

Sing with me now

I’ve counted up the cost
Oh, I’ve counted up the cost
Yes, I’ve counted up the cost
And You are worth it

Take my all

Jesus, take my all
Take my everything
I’ve counted up the cost
And You’re worth everything

I’ve counted up the cost
Oh, I’ve counted up the cost
Yes, I’ve counted up the cost
And You are worth it

As the song says, “I’ll fall, but Grace will pick me up again.” I don’t need to be perfect. Thank God.

And you don’t need to be perfect either.

If there’s one thing that God is teaching me right now, it’s that following Him and choosing to die to ourselves is an everyday choice– an everyday struggle. Sometimes it hurts like hell and you cry a lot.  But His mercies are new every morning.

As followers of Christ, we are called to die to ourselves and our desires. And trust me, this death stings like nothing I’ve ever experienced. Jesus knows… (Literally.)

On the days when I’m struggling to lay down my life and my loved ones, sobbing in coffee shops, or just generally fighting Jesus tooth and nail, He brings me to a place of quiet consideration that He gets it. He died. For me. For you.

So even when I’m bitter and soggy, I’m learning to consider myself thankful that I have a Savior who provided the ultimate example of what it looks like to lay down your life for the flourishing of another.

Jesus was obedient and faithful to the plan that God laid before Him, even though it was more difficult than I can even begin to fathom. He was obedient even unto death on a cross, Philippians 2:8 tells us.

Laying down your life probably doesn’t look like moving across the country to a tiny village in Alaska. (If it does, we should definitely chat…)

No, I don’t know what laying down your life and dying to your desires looks like for you today, but Jesus does. And I urge you to reach out to Him for the strength to do so. Just as He is trying so hard to teach me to do.

Death sucks, but it’s necessary. After all, we cannot experience the beauty of resurrection and new life of Christ if we do not first experience death.

(And I know, because I know, because I know that Goodness and life and joy is just round some corner… Both here in Denver and eventually 2,500 miles away. But I also know that it’s okay to mourn and weep in the changing of seasons because we also have a Savior who wept.)

“But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus as my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith– that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and may share in His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death, that by any means possible I may attain resurrection from the dead.”

(Philippians 3:7-11)

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