“The truth is the Christian life is marked by crosses, by thorns in the side, by sacrifice. There is a reason that historically, traditionally, our heroes are all martyrs, men and women famous not for taking up their winnings but laying down their lives.”
I came across this quote on Donald Miller’s blog this morning. The part that really catches my attention is not that our lives are a series of crosses to be taken up or thorns to be borne. Its hard to deny that reality of life, no matter how well or poorly we handle it. The part that caught my attention were the words not taking up their winnings but laying down their lives.
How often am I waiting to take up my winnings? How often do I feel like life owes me something and I’m just waiting to get to the payoff? That I suffer, not for the sake of understanding grace or out of love for others, but in anticipation of some sort of payout, some kind of recognition or medal or maybe as a test to prove I’m worth the good things that will come after. And in that, I lose something. I lose opportunity. I live in the perpetual fear of not earning the reward, of not getting to the better place, of not reaching the winner’s podium.
I don’t die to myself so I never really live.
But those that lay down their lives, has anyone else ever been so alive? You’ve given up your need to cling to the world, to the flesh and sinew and plans and schemes that hold you together. You let go of tomorrow, of what you will eat, drink, or wear or who will love you. You let go of the plans that force you to perform, to dance to someone else’s rhythm. You die, and you are given back life. You are given back yourself. You no longer forced to meet some expectation, to measure up, to win. You can’t be denied a medal when you refuse to play by their rules. If you don’t want their winnings, you don’t have to win. You don’t have to practice, study, perfect your ability to live like the world lives. And then look at how the horizon opens to you. You suddenly have the time to love your neighbor, to love yourself. You have the freedom to feel whatever you want, think whatever you want, love whatever you want. Because, if you’ve died, there is nothing else anyone can do to you. You lose the chains. You become free.
I’ve wondered what it looks like to be spent on behalf of reckless, all-consuming love. What it means to give up the world’s expectations, to even give up my own. To stop the race. To be a healer rather than a fighter. What does it truly mean to live in grace?
I think it means death. And I think it means freedom.