Quotes: Dying to Self

Three day old sunflower seedlings. Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

Romans 6:4 (NRSV)
Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.

True philosophers are always occupied in the practice of dying.
-Plato 

We are dead with Christ,
we are buried with Christ,
we are risen with Christ;
and there is no real spiritual life in this world except that which has come to us by the process of death, burial, and resurrection with Christ.
– Charles Haddon Spurgeon, Farm Sermons

John 12:25 (NRSV)
Those who love their life lose it,
and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.

The only way we can find ourselves is to deny ourselves. That’s Christ’s teaching. If you try to cling to yourself, you will lose yourself. And of course, the unwillingness to forgive is the ultimate act of not wanting to let yourself go. You want to defend yourself, assert yourself, protect yourself, and so on. – Thomas Hopko, quoted by Jim Forest in The Ladder of the Beatitudes

In the capitalist West, the very word “surrender” is not to our liking. We are all about winning, climbing, achieving, performing, and being the best. – Richard Rohr

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. – Richard Rohr

Click Here for further discussion of dying to self (the False Self) by Richard Rohr

We must die if we are to live. There is no spiritual life for you, for me, for any man, except by dying into it. Have you a fine-spun righteousness of your own? It must die. Have you any faith in yourself? It must die. The sentence of death must be in yourself, and then you shall enter into life. The withering power of the Spirit of God must be experienced before his quickening influence can be known: “The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: because the spirit of the Lord bloweth upon it.” You must be slain by the sword of the Spirit before you can be made alive by the breath of the Spirit.
– Charles Haddon Spurgeon, Farm Sermons

John 12:20 (NRSV)
Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.”

The grain of wheat must die in order to bear much fruit:
fruits of unity and universal peace.
Jesus is speaking of his own death,
and he is also speaking for each one of us.
We, too, are called to die to selfishness
in order to bear fruit and be messengers of peace:
we are called to die to some things that may be good in themselves
but that hinder us on our path towards unity, peace
and greater openness in the Spirit of Jesus.
-Jean Vanier, Drawn into the Mystery of Jesus through the Gospel of John

We see the proof of this in families where parents give up a whole lot of themselves so that their children might flourish, where children watch out for and occasionally participate in important decisions for parents as age catches up with them, where spouses set aside their own wants or needs to help the other become who they are meant to be. And yes, we see it in congregations where we give up our place in the pew for a newcomer, where we welcome children even when they fuss, when we reach beyond our shyness or our fear to speak to a stranger. In a thousand places and ways we know this to be true. It’s not usually big deaths, of course, but small ones along the way which live out the truth of Jesus’ words over and over again and our ‘dying’ somehow multiplies and results in life. – Janet. H. Hunt, Dancing with the Word

Creativity and newness of life have a cost, and the cost is what appears to look like  death. But really it is not. It is just letting go of one thing to make room for another thing. Loss is always perceived as an enemy or affliction, and looks like what we don’t want. Somehow to embrace loss, spiritually speaking, is to achieve something more and something bigger. Some form of positive dying invariably allows us to be united with what is Larger Reality, but of course we never know that ahead of time. – Richard Rohr

The death of Christ is as it were a sowing, which seems to be a dying of the corn, but indeed is the cause of a much greater harvest: and such as is the condition of the head, so will be the condition of the members. – Geneva Bible Notes

If you want to follow Jesus, understand that you must be, like him, a grain of wheat that falls into the ground and dies in order to bear much fruit. You cannot hoard your life (psyche in Greek, nephesh in Hebrew), making your survival your goal. You must have a higher allegiance, one born out of belief in and following the Son of Man who is glorified and who glorifies God in his crucifixion and resurrection.
– Alyce M. McKenzie, Edgy Exegesis

Now we begin to see why repentance is a uniquely Christian path of liberation from self. All great religious traditions recognize that the deepest desire of the human heart is for freedom from inner oppression. We feel “conditioned”: bound by the chains of our habits and compulsions, our likes and dislikes, our fears and guilt, our inability to love. Our great tragedy is that we so often mistake these habits and compulsions for our true self. … Our false self must die, so that we can find our true self, the self which God meant us to be and which he created in his image and likeness.
-Irma Zaleski, The Way of Repentance

Praying is a slow dying. In prayer you give up something of yourself and appropriate something of the sphere of the Divine in a continuous cycle of dying and resurrection. In prayer the growing soul leans toward the Light as a seedling leans toward the sun’s path. Plant a bean in soil, and soon it puts forth roots and a stem and the seed itself is lifted up upon the stem, broken, transforming into the nourishing cotyledon. This skeletal shell gives itself to the new green leaves which then begin the process of photosynthesis. The cotyledon, the old bean in withered form, falls off, spent, like the human body in death, having birthed and nurtured something new.
Suzanne Guthrie, The Edge of the Enclosure

Isaiah 43:18-19a (NRSV)
Do not remember the former things, or consider the things of old. I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?

Christ was in the tomb; the whole world was sown with the seed of Christ’s life; that which happened thirty years ago in the womb of the Virgin Mother was happening now, but now it was happening yet more secretly, yet more mysteriously, in the womb of the whole world. Christ had already told those who flocked to hear Him preach that the seed must fall into the earth, or else remain by itself alone. Now the seed of His life was hidden in darkness in order that His life should quicken in countless hearts, over and over again for all time. His burial, which seemed to be the end, was the beginning.
– Caryll Houselander

Had Jesus not descended to the grave, how would he have been the life-giving, the soul-quickening root of all his church and people? But now, by this one precious corn of wheat falling into the ground, and dying, how hath the garner of God been filled, and is now continually filling, with his seed!
Robert Hawker, The Poor Man’s Morning and Evening Portions

I am always dying, with each breath that enters and leaves my body, with each second and the hundreds of thousands of cells that are dying off to make room for more, with each toss of the football to my vigorous and growing son. And may I keep dying so life may abound. Thanks be to God!
– Todd Weir, Blooming Cactus

Thread the needle.
Let go of everything,
now, in this moment.
In the perfect poverty of prayer
walk away from it all to God,
poor and naked, alone and without recourse.
Utterly needy and dependent,
fall helplessly into God’s waiting arms,
where you will receive,
Beloved,
you will receive.
– Steve Garnaas-Holmes, The One Thing

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