Saturday, November 7, 2015

The work of life and death

I have been reading II Corinthians recently, and I was sitting in the quiet of the morning today, just me and my coffee (and the sounds of kids waking up in their rooms! Help! My time-bomb is ticking!), I landed on chapter 4 verse 12.  Paul has been describing to the Corinthians the principle of carrying around Christ's death in his body in order that through death, the life of Christ may be revealed to those around him.  In other words, as Paul dies to the things Jesus died to set him free from, Christ's life becomes that much more evident in his own.

As I heard the morning sounds of the kids, it struck me that the same principle can be applied to parenting.  II Cor 4:12 says, "So then, death is at work in us but life is at work in you."  As I parent my kids, wonderful though they are, I am constantly in a place of choice.  I can react naturally to their childish ways and disobedience, and become impatient and frustrated when they interrupt my plans.  Or I can, as Paul writes, "... carry around in our bodies the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body."  As I parent, I can also choose to react unnaturally (i.e against my instincts and human nature) when my children test me, choose to die to the things Jesus died to free me from, and thereby reveal the life of Christ in me.  Death is at work in me (and how painful and unpleasant it can be to die!), but as a result life is at work in my kids.

Surely this is a worthy reason to die to myself over and over again - my little deaths are sowing seeds of life in my children!  Galatians describes to us the fruits of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.  Because these fruits come not from our own hearts but from God's Spirit dwelling in us, they are unnatural and require a death to self.  But when I die to my impatience, or my un-gentle manner, or my lack of self-control, the Spirit of life is at work - not only in me, but also in my little stewards.  So then, death is at work in me, but life is at work in them.  And how I long to bring them life!

(On a side note, I was also reading from John Baillie's 'A Diary of Readings' this morning, in which he included the following by Lady Julian of Norwich. She describes the futility of Satan's attempts to derail the believer who takes to heart that living is Christ and dying is gain - who believes that difficulties in life are to be counted as joyful opportunities to grow more Christlike: "And however sore he [the Devil] travails, and however continually, yet he sees that all chosen souls escape him worshipfully; and that is all his sorrow. For all that God suffers him to do turns us to joy, and him to pain and shame." 
So, when I die to myself, whether in my dealings with my children or some other area of life, the result is two-fold. First, I am sowing life in my children. And second, I am rendering inert the attempts of the enemy to work in my heart, by choosing to live worshipfully and allowing the Spirit to be alive in my actions.  Though the dying itself is often almost prohibitively difficult, the good of the results, in my opinion, far outweighs the difficulty!)