Following Jesus means learning to die to a whole slew of things — self being one of them.
Sometimes dying to self means releasing yourself from a relationship you’ve held onto and with it, the future you’ve imagined, as it’s suddenly ripped from underneath your feet. Sometimes it’s letting go of timelines you’ve envisioned, and giving God the pen no matter how attached you were to the story in your head. Other times it’s surrendering dreams in discovering that God’s call on your life does not match your own.
Whatever the call to die to self may mean, one thing is always certain: it’s painful. Our stubborn wills rise up and want to hold on with all that they have. As idols of comfort and control are pried gently from our grasping hands, they take with them pieces of our very personhood.
Sure, we may know that only by death is rebirth possible—a rebirth into something new, vibrant, and beautiful—into a more accurate picture of the person we were originally purposed to be. But in the moment, it’s just plain painful, and it leaves you feeling defeated, depleted, hurting, and helpless.
I’ve been there—in plenty of my own seasons of surrender, where doing so seems impossible. Stubborn as they come, I’m not one who easily lets go of my own way.
When God calls me to surrender something, it’s often not a one-time deal, but rather a decision I need to make and remake daily. Continually, I’ll sense my heart slipping back into spot where I’m grappling for control. I’ll look down and realize that my fists have closed in around my idol again—unwilling to let go.
Yet in this place, I meet the Father—my faithful, patient teacher. Full of grace, full of love—in Him no condemnation. I am the fitful toddler, ebbing and flowing in equally fitful waves. I cry and scream and wrestle and pout and demand my way, and when corrected I subside—calmed, surrendered. Each time that stubborn willfulness and desire begins to rise in me again, I expect to meet the end of the Father’s patience—to be turned away in anger and frustration, written off, given up on.
Instead, He smiles, eyes knowing and filled with love, and He gently pries my fingers from that which they grasp. Those fingers find their way back a thousand times, and a thousand times, the Father responds the same way, His grace and love flowing not one bit less than the first time. In this perfect love I am freed, given healing, and I find rest. With each gentle correction, I become more softened to my own lack of control—more okay with letting go.
The steady waves of my Father’s love sculpt my rugged edges, giving form to something that will be made beautiful in His timing. He isn’t rushed, or worried with how long it takes. He is content to commune with me each step of the way. He’s not so concerned with my circumstances, my pace, or even the finished product. What He wants is my heart.
The thing is, letting go of our own desires—dying to self—is hard. That’s why the phrase includes the word die. But our willingness to release what’s in our hands to receive what’s in His is, at its root, an indication of whether we truly believe He can be trusted. And coming to know that in every situation He is trustworthy—maybe that’s the whole purpose of surrender.
Our desires for our own lives aren’t bad. God doesn’t ask us to suppress them, He simply asks us to submit them to His control. Imagine a beautiful stallion, full of stamina and strength. Under bit and bridle, that strength isn’t diminished, but rather redirected by the hands of a masterful equestrian. So it is with us. We were given dreams and desires for a reason. Surrender doesn’t mean squashing those things, but it’s also doesn’t mean letting ourselves run wild and free with them by our own means.
Surrender is simply releasing the reigns to the hands of our skillful Master, Who sees the whole path, and has the perfect one picked out for us.
Kaci is a 20-something-year-old living to know Jesus more deeply every day, and to share Him with others. Everywhere we look, we can find God’s truth and beauty, and Kaci is passionate about creatively communicating these things through the form of story to bring hope and encouragement to others. Kaci believes transparency cultivates connection, and that one of the most powerful places we can meet people is in the space of 'me too'. You’ll most often find her laughing with friends and family, working at her corporate job in communications, traveling, getting lost in the mountains, sticking her nose in a good book, or diving deeper into the heart of God.