Monday, May 10, 2010

Discipleship - Saying No To Myself

A couple of weeks ago, I was praying to God and telling Him that I wished to be like Jesus. I was confessing to Him that I was not like Jesus in the ways that I wanted, and was asking for help. In my heart, I heard the question, "In what ways are you not like Me? Be more specific." I realized that I was being very general. In fact, my generality bordered on insincerity. It was a blanket prayer, with no teeth to it, no intention or purpose. It was like, "Please God, make me smarter!" Smarter in what? Mathematics? Computer technology? As a mother? A chicken lady? A writer?

I stopped mid-prayer and thought for a minute. The answer that came soon to my mind was that I wanted God to help me to say no to myself the way Jesus did. As I sat and talked with God about it, I began to realize how difficult it is for me to say no to myself in many areas. I also began to realize how much I get to say yes to myself. The issue is not just denying myself things or experiences when need be, it is in my attitude when I have to. I have so many choices each day. We all do. And every choice gives us the opportunity to say yes or no to something that we want. It's not always obvious.

Many years ago, one mother told me that she had always laid out her husband's and adult son's clothes for them each day. It seemed like a wildly selfless act to me, until she told me why she did it. She liked for them to look the way she wanted them to, and was concerned that if they picked out their own clothes, their choices might be an embarrassment to her. She did it for her own pleasure and gratification, not as a gift to her family. There are "sacrifices" that I make during my day that really serve my desire to be thought of as a good mother and wife, that make my life and home more comfortable for all of my family, including myself or that serve to bring positive responses my way. We cannot really look at our lives objectively and decide whether or not we are truly selfless. Jesus talked about doing selfless deeds privately, because if we trumpet them from the rooftop, (or discreetly mention them to the town gossip), we have received our reward. A task done for a reward to self is not selfless, now, is it?

I, like may people, can tend to labor under the opinion that I am not appreciated enough and that my sacrifices go unnoticed too often. I have been known to adopt an air of righteous martyrdom. Thankfully, my 15 year old daughter has perfected the art of rolling her eyes and proclaiming, "Oh, puleeeeaaaase, Mother!" Nothing keeps one humbly grounded like a teenager, bless them.

The whole point of being a disciple is to follow the Rabbi so closely that one soon comes to look, talk, and act like Him. I don't think Jesus ever sported martyrdom chic, not even on the cross. In Matthew 4, Jesus was led by the Spirit of God into the desert for a 40 day fast and a supreme test in saying no to Satan, and to Himself. Three times, after Jesus abstained from food for 40 days, Satan tempted Him by offering Jesus food to eat, a supernatural display of God's care for Him and power over the kingdoms of the world. To each offer, Jesus said no. Even though Jesus was interacting with Satan, ultimately He was being forced to deny Himself not simply comforts but nourishment that His body must have been screaming for. His answer to each temptation was direct and to the point, "It is written..." Essentially, Jesus responding to everything Satan said with, "God said..."

God said that man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from His mouth.

God said that we should not test Him.

God said I must only worship and serve Him.

God said no.

I, on the other hand, am lousy at saying no to myself, even when saying no would be in my best interest. Don't get me wrong. I know how to say no to my daughter. To the kitten climbing my leg. To the dog losing it on the bunny and shaking him until his teeth fall out. To the telemarketer guy who calls at suppertime to offer me a deal I can't refuse. I can say no to the infomercial people. I can so say no to a Snuggie. I can say no and back it up with the broom, to the rooster. And I am not totally useless at telling myself no. But I want to be able to do it with the freedom and grace that Jesus did it.

So I specifically asked God to help me to say no to myself more. The first step is confession, and then the Holy Spirit heightens awareness within me so I can see where and when I am allowing my desire for my own way to master me. I can already see God working in me as I continue to pray and be open to His gentle but oh so firm revelations about my own heart.

Last week I went to a health food store in Valleyfield looking for aloe vera capsules. I bought some on-line for a company called Desert Harvest, which does research in aloe vera for several chronic illnesses, including the bladder disease that I have, interstitial cystitis. I bought a bottle of their freeze dried, super concentrated capsules, and had wonderful results with it. Unfortunately, a one month supply costs almost $70.00. I have been trying to find a similar product, with a comparable concentration of aloe at a cheaper price. Aloe vera juice is not suitable because in order for it to keep, it must be pasteurized, which kills the benefits from the plant, or it needs to have citric acid added to it, which defeats the purpose for IC patients who need to minimize the acid that makes it to the bladder.

The health food store didn't have aloe vera capsules, but they had a liquid called Alo-Chloro, which is a foul concoction of aloe vera juice and chlorophyll. It is supposed to help acidic stomachs, and I thought it might work for bladders as well. I bought a bottle, and when I got it home I realized that I had paid $40.00 for the most vile tasting liquid I had ever tasted. The stuff tasted like grass, only not as good. Chewed grass. Maybe even the grass stuff that cows whip up out of their cuds when they're bored. Truly nasty. It is dark green, and stains everything. Of course I had no idea how foul it was when I bought it. Talk about buyers' remorse. I take a tbsp of it every morning, especially now that I have run out of the Desert Harvest capsules. I ordered more capsules last night, but in the meantime, I have to use this stuff. Have I mentioned how nasty it is?

I put the Alo-chloro stuff in a fancy aperitif glass with a shot of sweetened blueberry juice to hide the color. Inevitably and inexplicably, I always smell it before I take it. Like, one day it will magically smell (and therefore taste) like fresh berries or chocolate or something. I don't breath through my nose when I am taking it, so it just tastes sweet and cold. Then I breath, at which point I do what is becoming my daily dance of gagging revulsion. I have to admit, though, that having an audience does add a certain intensity and vigor to the dance.

Forcing myself to down an aperitif glass full of Alo-chloro is so minor, it barely counts. But it counts. Saying no is getting easier. Every baby step helps. Whether it is choking down my medicine, or forgoing an extra few bites of food at a meal time when I am full, or cheerfully watching a movie that someone else wants to watch, God is answering my prayer. It's all so small, it's a bit embarrassing, but I keep thinking of God asking me to be specific, to break my vague prayer into daily realities, and I know that He is meeting me where I am.

Great spiritual transformations happen because a disciple of Jesus catches a glimpse of Him in a new and beloved way, and longs to follow Him even there.

Who knows? Maybe someday, the Alo-chloro dance will become a jig of joy!!!

No comments:

My Zimbio