My imagination was captivated when my friend told me about a tradition at Providence CRC. Each year a collection plate is passed that holds words printed on business card size cards (i.e. wonder, grateful, praise, selflessness, peace, empathy, contentment, helpful, etc.). The members are encouraged to take a word card to ponder on for a whole year. I was so fascinated by this idea that I decided to “borrow” it for my women’s Bible study at LaGrave CRC.
Little did I realize how deeply this simple practice would impact my spiritual journey.
The word I received was “selflessness.”
I love helping and serving others, so I must confess that I like to think of myself as a relatively outward-focused person. But as I meditated on this word and intentionally looked for experiences and situations where selflessness could be practiced, I realized I have so much work to do! It seemed like every time I opened my Bible, I would read about the call to deny ourselves, submit to God, be humble, put the needs of others ahead of myself, etc. I became more aware of times of self-absorption and self-interest and the need to ask for forgiveness.
One passage that made a special impact is Luke 9:23, “Then he said to them all: ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.’” I realized anew the first step in being a disciple is the denial of self…to learn to die to self so we might live for Christ. This goes against the innate human need for self-preservation, but without it, we miss so much of the full life Christ died to give us. So, what are practical ways a person can overcome our selfish human nature and truly live a selfless life?
Perhaps this piece will give you some ideas.
Dying to Self
Author (appropriately) unknown
When you are forgotten, or neglected, or purposely set aside, or set a naught, and you don’t sting and hurt with the insult or the oversight, but your heart is happy, being counted worthy to suffer for Christ. THAT IS DYING TO SELF.
When your good is evil spoken of, when your wishes are crossed, your advice disregarded, your opinions ridiculed, and you refuse to let anger rise in your heart, or even defend yourself, but take it in patient loving silence, THAT IS DYING TO SELF.
When you are content with any food, any offering, any raiment, any climate, any society, any solitude, any interruption by the will of god, THAT IS DYING TO SELF.
When you never care to refer to yourself in conversation, or to record your own good words, or itch after commendation, when you can truly love to be unknown, THAT IS DYING TO SELF.
When you can see your brother prosper and have his needs met and can honestly rejoice with him in spirit and feel no envy nor question God, while your own needs are far greater and in desperate circumstances, THAT IS DYING TO SELF.
When you can receive correction and reproof from one of less stature than yourself, and can humbly submit inwardly as well as outwardly, finding no rebellion or resentment rising up within your heart, THAT IS DYING TO SELF.
As you consider how you can express your gratitude to Christ this Thanksgiving season, perhaps, you might consider taking the first step in discipleship and commit to deny yourself and live a selfless life.