When "Dying To Yourself" Doesn't Mean What You Think It Means....

Jesus didn't come to make bad people good, He came to make dead people alive.
-Jefferson Bethke

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 
-Galatians 2:20

I first heard the term dying to yourself in Bible College. It was a Church of Christ bible college with a rule book the size of the dictionary, and the two were often referenced in conjunction with each other. In my view, dying to self began to mean something along the lines of, God wants you to stop having fun, to forget about those dreams, and give up anything you want in light of following the rules.

Sound familiar?

Now, not everyone went to bible college, and even less have probably had dying to self so misinterpreted by religion, but I want to challenge even the most amiable of views of this phrase because I think--in some cases I know--that we're skewing this important concept into something it was never meant to be.

If you've been a Christian longer than five minutes, you've probably heard some form of dying to self. Other variations include, crucifying your flesh, putting of the old man, and my favorite taking up your cross. These all insinuate death in some form or fashion, and let's be honest, it doesn't sound like a whole lot of fun. And many of us, myself included, have taken this to also mean death to our dreams, desires, and hopes, in light of pursuing "what God wants for us."

But what if we're dying to the wrong thing?

2014 will go down in history as the hardest year of my life thus far (which admittedly, I'm only 30, but still.) So many things were lost, and the pain of that year still stings me now. Through all the trials, I kept asking God for direction, and every time I did, I'd hear some form of this:
Let death take it's toll.
Now, that's not exactly what I was expecting to hear, nor did it sound comforting, so I asked for clarification. It was one of my precious prayer intercessors that answered this for me and shifted my view of the phrase "dying to self" forever.

She began to explain a vision she'd seen of a swimmer who was drowning. They were thrashing about, trying their best to keep afloat, striving with all their might not to let the waves take them under---but as we know---one can only do that for so long. Eventually the swimmer succumbed to the fact that they couldn't keep doggy paddling and gave in to the waves, but something miraculous happened! The swimmer began to float! And the waves that they were so afraid of took them home to safety.

She said firmly, sometimes you've got to give up your right to survive, in order to thrive.

I sat stunned.

I'd been fighting to survive for a long time. I'd been striving since I was a little girl to survive my famly, my circumstances.....I'd been doggy paddling to stay afloat for as long as I could remember, and it hadn't exactly been working for me. If insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results, then I was insane.

Finally, I began to understand what that phrase finally meant. God didn't want me to die to my dreams and desires. Death had to come to my skewed lenses, my drive to keep paddling myself. I had to give up my right to survive the way I had been--with unhealthy relational patterns, coping mechanisms, and self protection.

I had to die to doing and seeing things my way. And in God's upside down Kingdom, life always come after death.

Paddling to stay afloat was exhausting and I was burning out (and taking everyone else down with me). God was showing me a new way to live. He was helping me come alive.

Religion skews the concept of dying to self, twisting those words just enough from the truth to be believable. And alot of Christians have believed the deception that dying to self means dying to the very things God created in you and who you are. The enemy is sneaky like that.

But God says that what He created was and is good, that you are made with those hopes, dreams, and desires. What has to die, is our self-sufficiency, the belief that we can paddle our way to safety ourselves, when the truth is if we'll just lie back, the waves of God's love will take us home. 

Sometimes we have to give up our right to survive, in order to thrive.

Sometimes we have to die, in order to really live.

What about you? How do you view dying to self? What has it meant to you? What does it mean to you now?


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