I took issue with the reflection offered in the book I'm using this year this morning. Again. The Bible portion was 2 Corinthians 4:3-6 - the reflection talked about denying yourself to live for Christ. Follow the link. That's not what this portion says.
People talk about this idea of denying ourselves or emptying ourselves in order to follow Christ. It doesn't work for me.
It has taken me too long, I have struggled too hard, in order to find myself, accept my self, love and celebrate my self, to turn around and deny that self.
I am healthy and whole because I am finally fulfilling my potential as a person, I feel fulfilled in my being (or becoming). I recoil at the thought that I should empty out the fulness of my being.
But in this portion of Paul's letter, he says carry the death of Christ so as to embody the life of Christ. To me it sounds like another of Paul's exercises in trying to understand - rather than a final arrival at a timeless truth. Could we please read Paul more as doing the former and less as doing the latter? He wrote letters. Letters by their very nature are occasional. For the moment. For a particular situation. For a certain people. We can glean more truth in the words if we acknowledge they are reaching for truth, than if we assume they are a declaration of The Truth.
Try embodying his letters, feel his words and arguments, feel his passion and compassion - you will feel his striving, reaching wrestling. He doesn't arrive. Well, none of us do.
We embody Christ, and not just his death, but his life, teaching, healing, loving, dying and rising to new life - as a Way of being. The early followers of Christ called themselves people of the Way - it is a striving, not an arrival.
Embodying Christ leads to fulness of life. Not denial of it. Embodying Christ for me has not meant denying myself, it has meant embracing my self. And please do not try to tell me that my low self-esteem was a necessary denial of self in order to make room within for Christ / Spirit / God. Jesus does NOT require THAT. Jesus - read the stories - over and over again restores a sense of self worth for those who have had it beaten out of them by life and over-religiosity. Jesus came so we might know life in all its fulness.
I will not deny my self - for Jesus affirms me.
I will not empty my being - for I am made in the image of God.
I will, in the Spirit, embody God's Way of Love, and love will drive out fear. (Which is, I suspect, what, if anything, Paul would want a person to do).