If you’ve been a christian for any length of time, you’ve probably heard about denying self at some point. I’ve been hearing it a lot more from prominent christians on the internet lately. Mostly in podcasts but I’ve still been hearing it a lot lately. This isn’t the first time I’ve heard about denying self and I understand the concept. As I heard it being talked about in these podcasts though I started to ask; what did that look like?
We are constantly reminded that we are called to love others and pick up our cross and deny ourselves. We know what loving others looks like, we have example after example in the Bible in parables and in how Jesus treated people. Our goal should be to love people like Jesus did. He invited tax collectors and fishermen to follow him, to learn from him. I don’t recall him asking a Pharisee or an expert in the law to follow him. In fact, during Jesus’ ministry, the Pharisees and experts in the law worked very, very hard to shove the law down Jesus’ throat as if he wasn’t the maker of the law.
What does denying ourselves look like? Well, I’m about to dive in on my thoughts about this and what I think it might look like.
Luke 9:23 says: Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.”
There really aren’t any parables about denying self from what I’ve read in the bible. Now, I’m not a bible expert but I’ve gone through it a few times, especially the gospels and I don’t recall a verbal example of what denying self looks like. As I’ve asked this question and thought about what it would mean, God has been whispering the answer to me by giving me real life examples in my own life.
For me, denying myself is not hitting the snooze button when my alarm clock goes off in the morning. I was specifically shown a time that I have free to work on my book (a book that God has told me to write for years and I was running from it). I wake up earlier in the morning to give myself that writing time and then I start getting ready for my day. Some days, I bolt up, excited to write and get going like an energizer bunny. Other days, the snooze button in my best friend and I can get really logical and make sleeping in sound like the best option. I don’t need the added sleep though. I just don’t want to get out of bed. Denying myself is getting up anyway because I’m writing this book for God and because he told me too. Denying myself is not giving into the feeling of “just five more minutes” because those five minutes turn into an hour and then I don’t work on my book that day. In fact, I’ve slept in more times than I’ve woken up to write when I’m supposed to. This is a discipline I’m working on, getting out of bed when I’m supposed to.
Denying myself is to not allow my past hurts dictate the type of relationship I have with people in my life. When someone close to me hurts me, it is so easy to be like “well, cannot allow that to happen again” and cut that person off. Denying myself is forgiveness. I know we are called to forgive but sometimes, it is easy to argue why you should forgive them and then forget them. Denying myself is not forgetting them and still allowing them space in my life. Even when the hurts are numerous, I still forgive and allow them in my life. If Jesus was closed off, none of us would have been saved.
Denying myself is setting my coffee down, my book down, my laptop down, my phone down and playing legos with my son on the floor. While I want to be scrolling through Instagram or reading an article or whatever I was working on, time with my son matters more. While I logically know it matters more, sometimes it is hard to put into action. Maybe I’m comfy on the couch, maybe I don’t want to get up and sit on the floor, maybe my back hurts, maybe I have a headache.
Denying myself is saying yes to things that will take up room in my schedule. After my accident, I was forced into slowing down and saying no. While this was a good lesson, I’m learning I work in extremes sometimes. Everything used to be yes, and now it is like everything is no. However, sometimes an opportunity will pop up and I should serve and I should take it. It is very easy to still be of the no to everything mind-frame, I have room in my schedule for some things, not all the things. Denying myself is allowing room for the some instead of only focusing of what I have going on.
Denying self is realizing that it isn’t all about you. Denying self is doing the right thing even when we don’t feel like it. I don’t feel like waking up every morning at 5 AM to work on my book. I don’t feel like bringing up all the things I’ve gone though and re-living them through writing about them. I do it though, because God told me to and I answer to God. If my ultimate goal is to go back home one day and hear “good job my good and faithful servant” I won’t get there by hitting the snooze button.
Denying self is allowing God’s will to prevail and allowing yourself to be used in whatever part God has for you. In the garden, before the soldiers came to take him away, Jesus was in the garden at Gethsemane and asked God to take away what he was supposed to do. He asked God to take the cup from him and allow it to pass over him. He knew what he was about to go through would hurt and be painful, it would be hard. Even though Jesus knew his purpose for being on earth, it was still hard to do it. Jesus denied himself in his humanness and allowed God’s will to overcome, giving us the salvation we all needed.
When we need an example of denying self, look to the cross. Once I look there, the snooze button seems like a small thing to give up.