St. John 12:20-25; Romans 6:4
Frank was a boy roughly my same age as best I recall. We went to church together, but there’s not much more that I remember about him. My mother broke the news but provided only the headline without telling his story: he was nine years old, had freckles and brown hair, and he was dead. I understood nothing more than one week he sat in a chair not far from me and the next the chair remained empty, and his death is as surreal today as it was forty five years ago. Death to self is often just as hard to get a handle on.
What does it mean to “die” while continuing to breathe and think and feel? Richard Rohr sheds some light: “What we are all searching for is Someone to surrender to, something we can prefer to life itself. Well here is the wonderful surprise: God is the only one we can surrender to without losing ourselves! The irony is that we actually find ourselves, but now in a whole new and much larger field of meaning.” Death to self in biblical terms equates to what Andrew Murray called “absolute surrender”; it is relinquishing my hold on anything and returning to the Father everything he’s ever given. The crucified life requires ruthless vigilance, alert to any new thing I might surrender, and introduces a paschal rhythm to life–surrender, death, resurrection, and so forth. Few find the courage to renounce themselves, but those who do are rewarded with new selves that look and sound a great deal more like Christ.