24 Truly, truly I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. 25 Whoever loves his life loses it and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26 If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also.
Jesus spoke these words as the hour of his death, the hour of his "glorification" was approaching. These words are so clear and yet so deeply mysterious and paradoxical. It seems that our God, who's thoughts are not our thoughts and who's ways are not our ways, can best communicate His infinite depth to our finite minds through paradox and mystery. Yet there is a piercing clarity and truth couched in the midst of these beautiful words.... And this is God's bottom line for us, if we want to live we must die.
This truth flies in the face of every human instinct and inclination. Surely God created us with desires that He intended to fulfill in this life... Surely, as our provider, He will give us health, food, shelter, clothing, money, a loving spouse and the love of family.... Didn't he promise each of His children "an abundant life", after all?
And yet here, His will clashes with all of our intentions at the very deepest level possible. We want to live and to be comfortable and happy. We want lives full of realized dreams, material blessings, and significant relationships. Modern psychology tells us that this is our birthright--- self actualization, the deepest purpose of human life. But God demands the impossible, that we willingly abandon our desires and deepest human inclinations in order to embrace death.... Death.... How empty Jesus must have been, empty of all of His hopes, dreams and intentions... And our Father said that He was "perfect" in His obedience and asks us to be perfect in the same way. We are invited to share in Jesus's sufferings that we might also share in His glory. We are told that we must hate our life in this world and that, then, we will have eternal life. And our dear, precious Lord Himself speaks these words that are almost to impossible to contemplate--- that if we love Him and desire to serve Him, we must follow Him. Yet all things are possible with God.
Truly this is the ultimate choice of every human being who has ever lived. Do we follow Adam and Eve as they determine good and evil for themselves and disobey God in the pursuit of their own desires, or, do we follow Jesus who emptied Himself of His own desires and became perfect in His obedience to the Father as He embraced incomprehensible agony and death on our behalf?
Personally, I return to this question over and over again. This is a war of epic proportions within me and I vacillate between these 2 polarities, knowing all the while that God does more than frown on those who are double minded. I often wonder why God has not given me the things that I believe that I need in order to survive and thrive in this world. I want to be happy and love my life. Again and again though, God keeps bringing me to the realization that I hate my life in this world and that the only thing worth having is Him. Yes, there are tremendous blessings, comforts and consolations-- dear friendships and material provisions-- Perhaps this is God's deepest provision for me though, that He does not let me have the things that would cause me to love this life dearly. In so doing, He keeps me willing to follow Him and keeps me willing to continue to die to myself.
I always remind myself that this life is only a vapor. Yes Lord, please keep me willing, all of the days of my life, to follow you and to embrace the cross.