Today I’ve got a guest post from Carrye Burr. She’s an amazing writer and speaker, mom to three, wife to one, and a genuine follower of Jesus! (She also happens to be my niece.) I went to the Speak Up Conference with her two years ago, and she’s been on a writing spree ever since! Her second book, “How to be a Moon,” released this week and you can get your copy at Amazon here.
A Beautiful Death
Investing in others is a beautiful death.
John 12:24 (NIV) says, “Very truly I tell you, 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.”
Whenever I hear that verse, my mind veers towards the dramatic. I imagine claiming this verse stoically before being burned at the stake or thrown into a lion’s den like Daniel. (Not that I frequent many lion pits in my small New England community.) Maybe I envision launching myself onto a live grenade to protect many more lives than my own.
I mean, Jesus died and produced a hailstorm of seeds, so isn’t that the kind of death this verse is talking about?
Clearly God can use physical persecution and death to multiply His kingdom, but that’s too narrow a view of the death God intends for us.
Paul says we’re meant to be “living sacrifices,” and there’s something about dying while you’re still alive that really messes with your head. Dying while we’re alive means choosing to give up something while we still have the power to hold onto it. That’s why God says we have to take up our cross daily, because dying isn’t exactly our natural inclination.
One of the hardest things for us to die to or let go of, is our need to create our significance.
We want to be able to produce, through our own means and resources, the proof that our life matters. We fear that if we don’t have a tight grip on our worth, it just might slip away from us.
When our time and resources become personal worth-management tools, then investing beyond ourselves feels like a death.
Our struggle to invest doesn’t always surface in cut-throat competition or shameless power plays. We truly desire to love God and others well; most of us aren’t blackmailing our pastors in order to climb up the ministry ladder or slashing the tires of coworkers who get a promotion ahead of us.
Often our reluctance to invest appears in more subtle (but equally deadly) control issues.
For me this struggle to die to myself frequently manifests as a savior complex. I can’t very well die to myself and accomplish all the things on my to-do list for God at the same time. I can’t devote too much time to supporting others, because I’m too busy maintaining my worth and saving the world. Ironic, I know.
What I don’t realize is that my need to manufacture my own value through doing and being more “for God” is actually a form of selfish ambition.
James 3:16-18 (NIV) says, “Where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice. But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.”
This verse repeats the theme of seeds and planting. Selfish ambition sows disorder and evil, but God’s wisdom leads us towards peace and humility with others. The humble plant in peace and reap righteousness.
Humility is the soil in which we die to ourselves so we can allow God to multiply seeds for His kingdom in others.
Investing in others almost always requires us to give up something we feel is ours. Sharing a platform, opening up our homes, pouring out our time and relinquishing authority are all part of that beautiful death.
Yet whatever we give up, God will abundantly multiply in His kingdom.
If we think we can be more without investing in others, then Jesus was definitely doing something wrong.
Long before He died on a cross, He was dying through investing in His followers. Jesus was God incarnate, yet He constantly delegated authority to His disciples when He could have done the job so much better Himself.
Frankly, I have a hard time letting my kids make a sandwich by themselves because their peanut butter spreading skills are abysmal. I watch them murdering a good piece of bread and tell myself I don’t have time to teach them how to do the job better. Instead, I swoop in and rescue their lives with my superior wrist dexterity. I help, but I don’t invest.
But Jesus? Instead of letting His disciples wipe His brow and get Him some water between healings, He actually gives them His authority and sends them out to heal on their own. In fact, Jesus says, “…whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.” (John 14:12)
His disciples made plenty of mistakes, and sometimes Jesus wondered when they were going to get it. But He continued to train, equip, and relinquish opportunities so they could gradually step out in faith to do more.
Jesus wasn’t worried about losing His worth or glory through investing in others. In fact, He knew that His own glory would be magnified as He allowed others to tap into His power.
If Jesus magnified glory through investing, then we were made to do likewise.
We’re created as reflectors of Jesus, moons that are illuminated by our glorious Sun. Our worth comes from who God says we are, and all our shining comes not through ourselves but through our Father.
Competition is the belief that the Light we reflect is a limited resource and the one with the most shine wins. But investing in others is an acknowledgment that our Light Source is unlimited, and we magnify glory best by leading others to reflect Jesus well.
We can focus on being our very best and shiniest moon self, or we can die to our own plans, to-dos, and need for significance, and be the catalyst for countless more moons to meet their Light and reflect God powerfully.
What feels like a death actually creates death-defying kingdom growth. What feels like less light for ourselves actually sparks eternal lights across our generation.
Where are you trying to control your significance? What roles, ministries, and projects have subtly become more about maintaining your worth than humbly planting seeds beyond yourself? Where do you need to die to your own light so God’s light can be reflected?
I encourage you to choose one action step this week to examine your heart and reflect God:
Write down the roles and responsibilities that make you feel valuable. Ask God to show you where they may have an unhealthy hold on you, and pray that God would release you from the need to prove your worth in those areas.
Look at your to-do list for the week or for a specific ministry/project you’re involved in. Instead of owning it all yourself, ask God if there’s someone you can invest in by delegating, even if it means letting go of whether the task gets done “perfectly.”
Choose one person this week (spouse, child, student, coworker, etc) that you can invest in through extra time, sharing a platform or opportunity, encouragement, or mentoring.
Consider one person who invested in you by sharing a platform, delegating authority, or mentoring you when you didn’t feel qualified or capable. Take a moment this week to thank that person for helping you to reflect God’s full design for you.