Few sights are as beautiful as that of a field filled with young stalks of wheat. To watch them swaying in the wind and dancing in the sun brings joy to the heart. But how strange is the process by which these stalks come into being.
The grain of wheat has to be buried in the cold damp earth as in a tomb. Then it has to die. If it didn’t die, no new life would come forth. But when it dies, from the grave of the old grain, a shoot of new wheat miraculously springs forth. It’s an amazing paradox, life coming from death.
Just as the grain of wheat has to die in order to bear fruit, so we must die to self if we are to live fully and fruitfully, and realize our full potential as human beings and children of God.
Death is part of life. We are born to die, to die that we may live more fully; born to die a little each day to selfishness, to pretense, and to sin. Every time we pass from one stage of life to another, something in us dies and something new is born. We taste death in moments of loneliness, rejection, sorrow, disappointment, and failure. We are dying before our time when we live in bitterness, in hatred, and in isolation. Each day we are creating our own death by the way we live.
When Jesus says, ‘Anyone who loves his life loses it; anyone who hates his life in this world will keep it,’ he is not telling us to hate ourselves or our lives. We have to learn to love ourselves. God wants us to be merciful with ourselves. Nobody can love us if we do not love ourselves. Unless we love ourselves we won’t be able to love anyone else. Of course, we have to distinguish between true love of self and selfishness. To forget self, to transcend self – that is what it means to lose oneself, to deny self, to die to self. It is when we forget ourselves that we are most free and most happy. It is in getting out of ourselves, in dedicating ourselves to causes beyond ourselves, that we grow and bear fruit. We may live longer if we take things easy. We will exist longer. But will we live longer?
What a poor world it would be if everyone put their own personal safety, security, and selfish advancement first and last – if no one was prepared to go beyond themselves. It is always because people have been prepared to die to self-interest that the most precious things humanity possesses have been born.
Jesus gave us an example. He gave his life in the service of his heavenly Father and of us. But he didn’t find it easy. Jesus’ life wasn’t taken from him. He gave it – gave it out of love of God and of us. To love is to accept that one might die another kind of death, before one dies one’s own. The way of love is the way of the cross, but the way of the cross leads to the resurrection.
Those who die to self will find the moment of actual death easy. The hour of death will become an hour of glory. It is by dying that we are born to eternal life.