“We live and breath and follow a paradoxical gospel. We’re to equate success not with the world’s success, but with our ability to die to our desires. This echoes John 12:24: “I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.” (NIV) We who want to hold on to our control have a hard time with words like these.
We don’t much like death. We’d rather produce seeds another way. But death to ourselves, our agendas, our expectations, our hopes is necessary to find the deep joy that comes when we fully relinquish ourselves to the gospel.”
When I Did NOT Cheat
Ever since 3rd grade, I’ve gone out of my way to avoid even the appearance of cheating.
I’d finished my spelling test before my classmates and started gazing out the window. Then I remembered to re-check my work and–sure enough!–found a mistake.
As I erased the error and started writing in the correction, my teacher swooped in, accusing me of looking at another student’s paper and then changing my answer.
Hot tears of shame coursed down my cheeks. I knew I hadn’t looked at anyone else’s paper. But I had no proof, so I took my punishment without protest.
When I Could Have Cheated
During freshman year of college, I was aiming to earn 100% on every single test in a particular class. The end of the quarter was coming, and so far, so good!
I confidently took the next test. When I finished, I was sure I’d aced it. I was about to re-check all my answers when, as I looked up to the clock to check my timing, I happened to focus on one question on a classmate’s test.
As I realized I’d circled the wrong answer on mine, my heart sank. I didn’t want to break my string of perfect scores. But I also didn’t want to cheat! I began to re-check all my answers, as I always did. And I knew — I just knew — that I would have caught this error even if my eyes hadn’t wandered. It was a dumb mistake. The kind I always catch.
So I changed my answer.
And then I changed it back. Nobody had seen me. The teacher wasn’t going to swoop in and accuse me of anything. My classmates were focused on their tests, oblivious to my struggle.
But I still had to change my answer back. I couldn’t know for sure that I would have caught this error. I didn’t want to live with the nagging feeling that I’d cheated. As much as it pained me, I chose to break my unblemished record.
My Cheating Heart
When it comes to the whole “kernel of wheat must die” I’d rather produce seeds any other way.
ANY other way.
And since there’s no other way to produce seeds, I’ve tried to cheat the system by substituting something else for seeds:
It just makes sense: Why die to produce seeds when you can just show up with lots of fruit?
Isn’t produce the long-term goal of producing seeds anyway?
So I became a produce expert:
- You should see all the books on my shelves!
- You should see the list of workshops and conferences I’ve attended!
- You should see all the seminars and retreats I’ve spoken for!
- You should see…
It’s taken decades for me to realize that it’s not about the produce.
It’s not about what I’ve produced.
It’s not about the fruit.
It’s not even about the seed.
I Can’t Cheat Death
It’s all about the one thing my heart desperately resists:
dying. to. self.
In my attempts to cheat death, I’ve given the worst possible answer to the most important test question:
Who do you trust?
“Oh,” I say, “I trust God!”
But my behavior changes my answer.
- In what ways have you tried to “cheat the system”?
- How are you learning to “die to self”?
- Anything else on your heart!