One Way to Bring Life to Someone Else

What does it mean to die to self?

The question—posed several years ago during a small-group discussion—was one I had never seriously considered.

Dying to self 3

The image of someone jumping in front of a bus to save another person immediately sprang to mind, but I suspected the meaning was more figurative than literal.

The scriptural context was I Corinthians 4:10-12, which says:

We always carry the death of Jesus in our body, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who live are always given over to death because of Jesus, so that Jesus’ life may also be revealed in our mortal flesh. So death works in us, but life in you.”

I had always sort of skipped over these verses, what with all the repeated words about life and death and mortal flesh. I understood the connection to the one-time event of salvation, but that night, I started thinking about how “death” in me could result in life for someone else.

That season of my life included significant amounts of change and stress. Though it all, I struggled with irritability. I often reacted rather than responded. I frequently failed to demonstrate the fruit of the Spirit in how I interacted with my daughters, who were then about 10 and 7 years old.

As I contemplated dying to self through the lens of my own struggles, Jesus’ words in John 10:10 came to mind:

“The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.”

I thought about my words, my tone and my attitude. I considered the power they have to impact other people, even if it’s just the people in my house.

Do my attitudes and my thoughts bring life to others? I asked myself. When I respond to my children, are my words bringing life to their hearts and minds, or are my words and tone speaking death to them?

I know the theological concept of dying to self is multi-faceted and many layered, but this was what convicted me during that conversation. When every fiber my being wants respond in irritation and frustration—because I’m stressed, tired, hormonal or whatever—it is possible for me to die to myself so that someone else can experience life—full, whole, complete life.

I can choose kind, gentle and loving words instead of going with my human desire to be irritable. I can put someone else’s need for my presence above my own need to be alone.

Don’t get me wrong—it’s not easy. It actually can be quite hard, especially for someone who has been running on irritable for a long time.

There are many times when I don’t do it, even now.

But I can do it.  It is possible.

The day after our small group talked about dying to self, Lilly—who was in fourth grade at the time—asked me if I would come to school and have lunch with her. I tried to do that regularly back then, gamely braving a noisy lunchroom full of highly spirited kids because she wanted me to be there.

That particular morning, though, I was even more tired than usual. I had already come for lunch once that week, and I didn’t really want to do it again so soon.

“No, not today, honey,” I told her as she got out of the car.

She was OK with that, but no sooner had I driven out of the parking lot than the words from the night before started running through my head: die to self, die to self, die to self.

Oh, all RIGHT, I frumped. I get the message. I’ll go to school for lunch today!

When I got there later, I went to the fourth-grade wet area to find Lilly. One glance at her face told me something was terribly wrong.

A friend had been unkind and her feelings were hurt.

In a way that nobody but God could have predicted, she needed her mom right then, and there I was.

We retreated to the bathroom, where hugs and a few soft words soothed her feelings. She usually invited a friend join us for lunch, but this time, she and I sat at a table in the wet area—just the two of us—and ate our lunches. I pulled a deck of cards out of my purse, and by the time her classmates came back, she was fine.

It was a small thing, but it made a huge impression on me—one that lingers to this day.

(That’s not all I learned about dying to self during that season of my life, by the way. Next week, I’ll share about an unexpected epiphany that touched the deepest parts of my faith.)

Lois Flowers

P.S. Linking up this week with Kelly Balarie at Purposeful Faith, Jennifer Dukes Lee at #TellHisStory, Lyli Dunbar at #ThoughtProvokingThursday and Holley Gerth at Coffee for Your Heart.



20 Responses to One Way to Bring Life to Someone Else

  1. No, it isn’t a concept I want to try out and be, but I need to hear it. After serving lunch at a school, I don’t always want to give my girls my full attention, but they need me. Great reminder!

    • Lois Flowers says:

      Yes, our girls do need us, don’t they? Sometimes in ways that are very different from each other, which can make it even more, um, interesting! I hope you have a wonderful evening with your family, Sarah.

  2. Sandra J says:

    Lois, I am always blessed when I visit your site. I appreciate your questions, and how you applied God’s truth in the lunchroom. I can relate to the timing of this specific calling to die to self : “When every fiber my being wants respond in irritation and frustration—it is possible for me to die to myself”. Thanks for the beautiful example!

  3. Natalie says:

    Such great questions you posed. The struggle with irritability is real, as is the toll it takes. Thanks for gently drawing the line between our reactions and the people on the other end of them and for sharing your story of the end result of your willingness to listen to the Spirit and lay down your life.

    • Lois Flowers says:

      The toll of irritability … that’s a great way of putting it, Natalie. And yes, it can be significant, can’t it? Thank you for your thoughtful words today. 🙂

  4. “Do my attitudes and my thoughts bring life to others? I asked myself. When I respond to my children, are my words bringing life to their hearts and minds, or are my words and tone speaking death to them?” This is where the Holy Spirit has been prodding me. And I love that you followed the Holy Spirit and got to see firsthand the joy of dying to self. What a forever mom moment. <3 Blessings to you, Lois.

    • Lois Flowers says:

      A “forever mom moment” … yes, it was definitely that, Lisa! And you know what? Lilly doesn’t even remember it! That makes me think the whole thing was immediate needed comfort for her and maybe a little bit more of a long-term lesson for her mama! 🙂

  5. Crystal says:

    Lois,

    Dying to self is such a struggle for all of us. Oh, it’ soo hard! I’m happy to year that in that moment you chose to do so and in return you blessed your little girl with your presence.

    • Lois Flowers says:

      I agree, Crystal. Sometimes I just want to stamp my foot and insist on having my way. (Did I just write that out loud?) 🙂 And then moments like this one remind me of the joy that comes when we put someone else’s needs ahead of our own.

  6. Dying to self – laying down our rights, and purposes before a God whose ways are higher is such a hard thing – it can feel unnatural even. I think the longer we walk with Him, the more we see that He asks us to die to self in the places He wants us to be most transformed. Very thought provoking post, Lois.

    • Lois Flowers says:

      “The longer we walk with Him, the more we see that He asks us to die to self in the places He wants us to be most transformed.” Oh, Tiffany, I think you are on to something here. He sees us as we will be, and He knows what we need to get to that point. I’m so thankful we can trust that our good Father knows what He’s doing!

  7. Kristine says:

    Lois, I love your story about the lunchroom. Oh, how I can relate! The Holy Spirit is teaching me daily about dying to my own self, and also putting others first. Sometimes, my family gets put last on the list of needs, when they should be first. Such a needed reminder today:)

  8. bethany says:

    What timing. Listening to the Lord’s conviction is always a good choice : ) Thank you for this simple lesson too- the point is memorable for me. Life-giving words come from the death of me selfish words.

    • Lois Flowers says:

      If I hadn’t listened, Lilly probably would have forgotten about her hurt feelings pretty quickly. But I definitely would have missed out on a big blessing, and the whole experienced reinforced the importance of listening and obeying! I hope you’re having a good week, Bethany. 🙂

  9. Linda Stoll says:

    Thanks for those 2 questions right in the middle of your musings, Lois.

    Powerful, poignant, necessary …

    Yes.

    • Lois Flowers says:

      The part about tone of voice is especially convicting to me, Linda. Whether they are directed at me or coming from me, gentle words are so much more life-giving than curt or abrupt ones. Thank you for your gentle words, my friend!

  10. Trudy says:

    Lois, I love your insight here. What an important question to ask ourselves – “Do my attitudes and my thoughts bring life to others?” It really touches my heart at how God intervened because He knew Lilly would need you that day. Blessings and hugs to you!

    • Lois Flowers says:

      Trudy, that experience is one I hope I never forget. And to think I could have just as easily missed it … so grateful for the Holy Spirit’s quiet promptings! Have a wonderful day, my friend!

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