I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the LORD your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the LORD is your life….
–Deuteronomy 30:19b-20a NIV
Seek me and live.
–Amos 5:4b MSG
Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to finding yourself, your true self.
–Luke 9:24 MSG
And this is the real and eternal life: That they know you, the one and only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you sent.
–John 17:3 MSG
I’m watching my dog die, slowly as the inoperable tumour grows at a remarkable rate. It won’t be long before the growth wins out and her body succumbs to the inevitable. Death. We have our platitudes to ease the pain of loss, but in the end, it’s a loss of a faithful vibrant family “friend”. And even though she is struggling to walk, breathe, and eat, you can see in her eyes a desire to “go” on the next adventure. The Spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak, if you will.
Who would willingly choose death? Sure, many decide their lives are too difficult or shameful to stay in the race, but most choose to keep at it. God’s call through Moses, Amos, and Jesus is to life—not physical life per se. He was talking about a quality of life where we live more fully as people freed from self-preoccupation so we can enjoy him and draw others into full living. Lent not only draws our attention to those things that deaden us, but the invitation to know, be, and give ourselves asks us to consider the ways we are brought into life. Simply denying ourselves something over Lent as though that is a virtue of itself misses Jesus’ point. This renunciation is about walking away from the things that deaden us—the things that pull us deeper into a myopic, self-referenced existence into life.
Choosing life is to embrace our relational God as one we desire to praise, revere, and serve, which is different from getting our behaviour right. Choosing God is to love him as he loves us. It’s to want him more than lesser, soul-deadening things. For some, this can be a difficult choice because the things that actually deaden us feel good (for a season). Enjoying second things is not the problem, elevating them to first things is. However, as we step out of our myopic, self-referenced worldview through prayer, fasting, and giving ourselves into the quality of life Jesus offers, death’s hold lessens over time.
This week, draw two columns on a piece of paper labelling one side “Things that Bring Life” and on the other “Things that Deaden Me.” Make a note as the list lengthens whether you spend more or less time on things that deaden rather than those that enliven. Pay attention to how you define life (or deadening events) when family and friends praise, reverence, and serve you to the point of your losing sight of first things.