I recently had the opportunity to revisit, for a few brief moments, a place that has become special to me. It is almost a year since I was baptised in the River Almond in Perthshire, by the same stretch of glen that I spent a contemplative day outdoors considering some big messages on a ‘retreat’ I went on last year. Being there again brought all the magic, yes, magic, back fresh. It is one of those places which has become, for me, a thin place….where the veil between heaven and earth is so thin you can hear the breath of God.
It was in the place last year, and again this year, that I simply remembered that so much of what we build for ourselves is but a facade. Our false self, our inflated ego, sets the world up around us and helps us give, at the best, the impression that we’re all sorted and that we’re building something that will last when, actually, life isn’t about me at all. This body, my name, my identity, my role, title, job description, will all slip away. It is all so elusive. All the things I’ve managed to conjure up for myself will ultimately pass away. It will die, and so will I. There are so many ‘bits’ that will simply fall away.
You’d think that such thoughts were depressing. But actually, I’ve found the opposite to be true. I’ve found that the real treasure underneath the surface is where the real investment is to be made. When we get to the point of accepting that our own mini salvation projects are not what life is about, we then start to see the bigger picture of where we fit in things, what our life ultimately means, and how God is more about refining our deepest gold that will last than he is about buffing our chrome veneer.
And so there is great freedom in ‘considering myself dead to myself and alive in Christ’, as Paul said. There is freedom in not being consumed by defending your own thoughts, views, opinions, will or ideas. There is freedom in not being overwhelmed by the rush to own things, consume things, have things. There is freedom in not having to be right and prove everyone wrong. There is freedom in accepting that there is a crack in everything, and in welcoming the light that shines through the self-same cracks.
It is for freedom the Christ set us free. Its just that the way to his Kingdom freedom is always through death, darkness, grief, and loss before we glimpse the glory of Resurrected life. Jesus set the pattern.
The irony is that you can be breathing but be dead. To truly live is to have experience so many deaths that all that is left is refined and abundant life. May we each learn to die daily and by doing so find true life.