Part 6: Laying Down Our Lives
Pastor Mary Inman
Mother’s Day—the day set aside to honor all mothers, and the day that afflicts most of us with some guilt. I remember one Mother’s Day very well, when we were trying to make candles out of crayons and old candles. I’m pretty sure the craft ended in tears and frustration. Let me tell you some other stories that I remember on Mother’s Day:
- We called a plumber to see what the problem was in the 2 toilets in the house--16 toothbrushes flushed down
- Coming home after a banquet to find one of our sons coughing like the dickens. While the rather elderly babysitter was there, he mixed talcum powder in water, for a pre-bedtime drink.
- One boy crying and smelling like the manicure salon. His brother left nail polish remover in a cup within his reach.
- Finding out much too late that one brother got another brother to eat poop.
- While gone to a minister’s convention, we got a call that the hot water heater flooded the basement, and that the iron fell off the ironing board, burning a rather distinct imprint in the kitchen floor, flames included.
- One baby born a little too early, with hyaline membrane disease—blue baby twice.
- Sheepishly arriving at the police station to retrieve a 5 year old we mistakenly left at home. Left the same child at a store on a cross-country trip.
- Every time a new baby arrived, trying to pack the diaper bag perfectly, and trying to remember to unpack the dirty diapers before the next trip out the door.
- Loving every son individually, and hating it when I ran out of patience at inopportune times.
- Hearing Jason yell, “Fire!” in the middle of the night, and waking to find the electrical strip in flames behind the fish tank.
- Several wrecks—Tim rolled a pickup on 17, David hit by someone running a red light, Jesse hit riding a bike, Jason’s car hit a tree on Hansen, and Tim hit skateboarding.
And you have your own stories—some funny and maybe some tragic.
Motherhood certainly isn’t a career for the week-kneed or faint of heart. Motherhood is a story of laying down your life for little people you love very much.
In the AD series Mary the mother of Jesus lays down her life. Her continued devotion inspires the apostles to lay down theirs.
My father used to say that God gives us children to help us to be less selfish, and maybe it’s true. I still find lots of room in my heart for selfishness. Which brings us to look at Jesus, his life, and his help to lay our lives down.
The words of Jesus in John 15:12-14 Living Bible (TLB)
I demand that you love each other as much as I love you. And here is how to measure it—the greatest love is shown when a person lays down his life for his friends; and you are my friends if you obey me.
Then he told them what they could expect for themselves: “Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat—I am. Don’t run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I’ll show you how. Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to finding yourself, your true self. What good would it do to get everything you want and lose you, the real you?
Matthew 10:39 (TLB)
“If you cling to your life, you will lose it; but if you give it up for me, you will save it.
So, how many here would like to follow Jesus? In these verses that record His words, He leaves us no option of serving 2 masters. If we want to be his friends, he asks us to lay our life down in a self-sacrificial way.
Now, you might think I’m a great example of a servant—a lay your life down kind of person, but actually I’m not. I did serve my children—cooked, cleaned, diapered and dressed them. Made myriads of brown bag lunches for them. But I would much rather have had them serve me breakfast in bed—fresh fruit with crème fraise, puffed pastries and tea. I admit that I don’t easily lay my life down.
It is what Jesus is asking all of us to do today. Not just mothers. Lay down the good idea of an awesome career, a lovely home, a secure retirement, a cozy family. Lay it down, hands down. No more striving to be the best for anyone except him. It’s like this-- “Jesus, you can have all of me—no holding back my favorites. I want what you want in life. I trust you.”
And actually, Jesus never intended us to be on “easy street” or to live the “American dream.” Serving him and serving our wants and desires at the same time usually ends up with us serving our wants. This is hard stuff—killing-self stuff. And this is not because He needs our help, but because He knows what will fulfill our empty longings.
I like how Heidi Baker says it—we must be “laid down lovers” of Jesus. If “all fruit comes from intimacy”, as she says, maybe that is why my life is less than full of fruit.
The good news is that Jesus consistently calls us back. He tells us how much He loves us, and coaches us out of our myopic, self-centered lives. He says to us, “Are you bored and tired of a mundane life? Would you like your days to be full of fulfillment? Here’s how—lay down your life. Then I will give you life to the full.”
Wow! Laying down our lives, giving up our willful ways seems like an antonym to happiness. But it is actually the converse. When we give our life to Christ hands down, He gives us “life to the full”.
John the beloved records Jesus’ words, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” John 10:10 NIV
Who could have imagined that at age 66 I could have such a full life?
You see, I had a very different plan for my life. Fall in love, marry my sweetheart, move to a quiet countryside home, raise my children to love the land and animals, and enjoy a quiet life.
Father God had other plans for this shy little country girl. I’ve lived in Alameda, Nebraska, Vallejo, Los Angeles County, and Fremont. My children never made it to the country, and my life was spent in care of people, not animals.
He’s given me 7 children and 25, almost 26 grandchildren. I’ve traveled to England, Mozambique, Kenya, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, India, Ireland, Mexico, El Salvador and Ecuador.
I believe I am living life to the full, and it isn’t over yet. As God’s spirit blows on me and through me, he helps me fulfill His plan for my life, and at the same time He pushes me to live life to the full. Do I do it perfectly—no, certainly not. Sometimes life rushes me past the important, and I miss the nuances of His Spirit directing me. But I’m hoping at those times He will draw me back to intimacy with him, so I can hear Him, and be willing to again lay my life down.
Is there anyone out there who wants their life to count for something? Anyone who would like to break out of the mundane, common, “work for a house and a car” kind of living? Do you want the adventure of following God’s heart to people who need you? There’s still time.
Some of you have had prophetic words, dreams and visions from God about His dreams for you. Maybe they weren’t really clear to you at the time, but you imagined God would use you for something great and out of the ordinary. But now you feel locked away from His dream, like water gone under a bridge. Don’t despair.
He’s the Father who redeems our life from the pit in all areas.
Psalm 103:4 says that God “redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion”.
He says to you today, “Do you feel like you are in a pit, behind an impervious wall, blocked in by life’s circumstances. No fear! I’m ready to bring you out of that seemingly inescapable, pit.
And after I draw you out with cords of kindness, I will place a crown on your head of love and compassion. I will use every gift I’ve placed deep within you.”