For a few very hard years this word was my mantra.
The word means
-undismayed; not discouraged; not forced to abandon purpose or effort
-undiminished in courage or valor; not giving way to fear
But the truth is, I was often dismayed by everything that had taken place, and I did battle discouragement. I battled fear and doubts. I hurt and was angry, and sometimes "undaunted" sounded more like a mockery than a mantra, and I was determined to be real about all of it in these posts, thus the name, Undaunted Reality. More than that, though, I was determined to live undaunted, not because I'm so great or strong, but because my God is, and no matter what this world looks like, He is the only reality that matters.
I pray I live the reality of Him beautifully undaunted.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

"Dying to Self"--What it Really Means

One of my issues with "spiritual" writing is the fact it is so often written on such a "spiritual level" that it doesn't hold much real world, right where I'm living, value. In other words, it's kind of useless after you walk out the church doors. I really don't want to be that kind of writer or teacher, so I want to take a post to explain a couple of concepts and give you real life application.

I use the phrases "on the altar" and "die to self" pretty often. They are great theological phrases, but unless you really know what they mean or look like, you won't know how to apply these life-changing (even legacy changing) concepts. Today, I want to talk about what it means to "die to self".

Dying to myself means I stop thinking about me all the time, how I want things, what I think is true, what I like, how I think something should look, how I think someone should act, how I think I should spend my time. It means I stop thinking like me and start thinking like Jesus. Let me give you a few real life examples.

Last week I had another conversation with an "older" mom about her broken relationships with her grown daughter. This is incredibly common. In fact, I've had these conversations with a lot of moms. Almost all of them tell me about the daughter's messy house, spending habits, how she has let herself go, and over-packed schedules. All of them say, "I raised her better than that," and all of them assure me their daughters are fully aware of how Mom feels. Honestly, the broken relationship is all because the daughter isn't making the effort. Well, I wouldn't make the effort either. From the outside, it is so obvious to me that Mom is so busy being offended because the daughter is not like her or how she thinks things should be that Mom is the problem. Mom's self-right(eousness) is crushing the relationship. And I asked Mom a simple question, "What does all that have to do with eternity?" Well, nothing, but that isn't the point. The point is those daughters know better. No. Actually, the point is whether they know Christ. If Mom wants to fix the relationship, she has to get on the altar and die to expectations that aren't met and aren't going to be met. She has to die to her own pride because she is ashamed that her daughter isn't living up to a standard Mom has. Mom has to die to her "right as mom" to use shame to discipline a grown woman. She has to die to how she sees herself in the relationship. It is a hard dying, but dying to self means those moms can put down the weight of trying to make those daughters something they aren't and love them for who they are. And, by the way, it is a lot easier to receive God as a heavenly Father when a person isn't having to heal from pain inflicted by an earthly parent.

Now, I need to clarify here. I have never told these moms, and don't expect to tell any of these moms, that the daughter is all right. However, God will hold us accountable for our own behavior, and if we are manipulating, shaming, demeaning, or controlling to make someone what we think they should be, that is not God, and any damage done by our actions will be on ours hands.

The other thing I tell these moms is that "getting it right" doesn't guarantee they will get the result they want. We cannot control another person's response or reaction. We can only act in such a way as to make the door to relationship the most appealing it can be.

Another example of dying to self I love actually came from a dear friend of mine.

He told me at the first of the year he decided this was the year he was making a change. He was tired of being in a lousy marriage. He was tired of being unhappy. He was tired of his wife not respecting him. He was tired of not being treating like a husband deserves to be treated, and he was reaching an age where he knew he had to make hard choices if he ever planned to be happy, and he did. He told me he finally had the marriage he wanted, and it wasn't because he traded in his wife of 20+ years for a new model. It's because he finally died.

He said he grew up in a home where his mom scrubbed the house every week. Dinner was on the table when his dad got home. When my friend went to school, his mom always sent him off with a cooked breakfast. Sunday dinner was always a mini-feast around the perfectly set table. She always decorated for holidays inside the house and out.

He didn't have to tell me. I already knew. I know his wife, and his wife does not do that. His wife works 40 hours a week, makes it to their kids' school activities, and grabs take out on the run probably four times a week and probably grabbed pizza on the way home from church so they could eat it on the couch watching sports.

"I resented that about her. How she didn't take care of me. How she didn't keep my house clean. How she didn't make our family special."

This is what I can also tell you about his wife. She adores him. She budgets like crazy so they can afford a lawn company to do the yard so my friend doesn't have that to do on weekends but can rest. She puts aside money every month so they can take a nice family vacation and so she and her husband can have a few weekends alone a year. She has turned down promotions because they would require travel and extra hours, and she won't do that. She may not look like June Cleaver, but she is totally focused on her family. So what was the problem?

All he could see were his ideas of what a wife should be and how she didn't meet them. What changed? "God took me to the whipping shed and gave me an attitude adjustment." Turns out his whipping shed and my altar look a lot alike. He said he stopped focusing on what he expected a wife to be and thought about what he really wanted. He quit looking at what wasn't important and started realizing he had what was important. Food is food, whether it comes from a restaurant or three hours over a hot stove. The house wasn't spotless, but the kids feel loved. She wasn't making him breakfast, but she was making plans for time just for them, and that made for some special memories. They didn't talk around the table every night, but she listened to kids in the car on the way to this lesson or that game. He died to what he expected, to the rights he thought he had, to the bitterness he had for the way she wasn't fulfilling some "ideal wife" dream, and he learned to live in Christ and see a woman who adores him, loves her kids, works within the confines of a different culture than his mom to make a strong family, and juggles everything well. He looked at me with a big smile and said, "I have never been more in love in my whole life, and I have never been happier in my whole life. I think people at work are getting tired of me talking about how happy I am actually."

That is what dying will do.

Dying to self may include things like:
...getting up 30 minutes earlier to read your Bible and pray even though you like sleeping in.
...reading a story to your son or daughter instead of watching a TV show. your husband some time to work in the workshop or garage instead of expecting him to listen to the playground drama
...listening to your wife tell about the day with the kids...and being the bad cop because you are dad and you have a special kind of weight in the house
...going to see someone in the hospital or nursing home instead of going shopping, sitting at home, or having overpriced coffee
...making a meal for a family with a sick member
...coaching a kids' sport team instead of sitting in your recliner
...letting the kids paint or do crafts instead of being all consumed by a clean house
...putting the plans away and focusing on someone who needs your company whether that be a spouse, a child, a friend, or someone who needs a friend
...using a Saturday to help a widow, older person, or limited ability person with yard or house work

Dying to self isn't always complicated, but it is usually hard for the simple reason we like our comfort zone, we think we have a right to what makes us happy, and we want things our way. Except, Jesus came to serve and die for others, and when we profess to be Christians, we profess that His way is the right way and we choose to live according to His standards. The only way to do that is to live in Him and die to us.


  1. Very well said.....and when you die to will be more alive than you ever thought possible!!!

  2. Pam, you are so right on! Isn't it like the craziest thing ever?!

    Thank you for your kind words, and thank you for your comment. I totally agree with you!