Sometimes when I tell really sweet stories about my boys, I feel compelled to say that they are also human and therefore fallen. Little Will Jackson is indeed about the sweetest, kindest, most thoughtful child in the whole world, except when he is being a selfish little ingrate or a brother-teasing monster. I need to say that because I am about to share a story about him that is amazingly sweet and reveals how profoundly insightful he can be.
About two years ago, when we lived in a much bigger house with an amazing basement, Will and Nate spent hours upon hours playing downstairs. They are the kind of brothers that regularly make up new games and get obsessed with said new game for weeks. The problem is that one child is much more accommodating than the other.
One day Will came upstairs with tears streaming down his face, utterly heartbroken.
“He never ever dies to self,” he sobbed on my shoulder. Truer words could not be said. At seven, Nate never ever died to self, and progress at nine is still painfully slow.
As I tried to comfort Will and counsel Nate about why his selfishness was so hurtful, I was struck by how much Will truly understood the importance of dying to self. He wasn’t just throwing the phrase out there. He wasn’t just mimicking what he’d heard in church or read in a devotional. He knew in his soul how hard he’d tried to make peace with Nate, how he’d given in, and accommodated over and over and over again. Nate’s unwillingness to reciprocate communicated a total lack of love, and crushed his brother’s heart.
We live in a hopelessly misguided world that touts a “look out for number one” philosophy. But the message of Jesus is (and always has been) completely countercultural. He says that we are to die to self, to take up our cross, and follow Him. (Luke 9:23). Whether you follow Jesus as Lord and Savior or not, the health of your relationships depends on your willingness to deny yourself, to put others first.
So how does this look in your marriage? How does it look in your relationship with your children? How about with friends?
This morning I am praying that I will be willing, through the power of the Holy Spirit, to put others first. May I know the blessing that it is better to give than to receive. And may we all know the truth of the paradox: dying to self is vital to an abundant life.