Die Small, Die Often

It’s called “lake effect snow.” A cold air mass moves across warmer lake water, picking up vapor from the lake. As the vapor rises up through the colder air, it freezes and deposits snow on the downwind shores. So depending on the wind, the lake effect snow could dump several inches on one part of a region, while another part is left virtually unscathed. Suffice to say, I did a lot of shoveling during the fifty-three years that I resided in my hometown, nestled on the shores of Lake Erie – Buffalo, New York. The city ranks number two of major cities in the U.S. with an annual snowfall 95 inches. Comparatively, Denver has 54, New York City 25, and my current home in Kansas City, Missouri, averaging only 15.

When snow was in the forecast, I listened for where the lake effect was headed, and, when the weatherman said, “Accumulation of up to __ inches is expected”, snow clearing strategies began to form. It was easier to shovel small and often, versus waiting till the snow was high.

Allow me to employ this illustration to discuss a vital component of successfully living out Christianity, whether single of married, and that is – dying to self.

The call of Christ is clear, “Take up your cross and follow me.” We could paraphrase it to say, “Take up your dying and follow me.” I love how Andrew Murray states it:  “Christians need to understand that bearing the cross does not in the first place refer to the trials which we call crosses, but to that daily giving up of life, of dying to self, which must mark us as much as it did Jesus, which we need in times of prosperity almost more than in adversity.”

Jesus lived his earthly life in a day to day surrender, though he was the “radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature” (Hebrews 1:3),  He said, “the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing.” (John 5:19 ESV)

When we too are proactive in this regard, first God-ward and then towards one another, the grace of daily dying will grow in us.

Here’s a story of a husband I know…

He got up as was his custom, to put on the coffee and prepare his breakfast. He noticed that the dishwasher was clean but not emptied yet and the sink was full of dishes that needed to be loaded in. So he put the clean dishes away, cleared the sink, made his food, and sat down to eat. His wife entered the kitchen and proceeded to ask him if he could run an errand for her in the afternoon, because she wasn’t feeling well. Can you believe that this husband did not respond in a loving way; he didn’t go the “extra mile” but instead became irritated?

You may be thinking, “This is such a minor thing; surely not enough in this scenario to be offended over?” On paper, I agree. This guy needs to love his wife like Christ loves the church, right? It’s really no big deal. But what I didn’t plan for (yea, I was THAT husband), was the reaction that sprung up like a “jack-in-the box”, out of my innermost being. It came front and center in an instant – “I’ve already done something nice for you today and cannot believe that you’re asking for more!” I then faced the choice of how I was going to respond to my response.

Living by natural default responses will never be a catalyst to the transformed life. When I miss my opportunities to die small, I archive the offense to a storage place in my heart, making me more inclined to respond that way again. A marriage enters perilous waters when such a pattern becomes entrenched. Accumulation, rarely dying, becomes a volume issue. 

I stated in our book, Longing for Eden, “The brightest spot in a marriage is in the shadow of the cross.” The cross of Christ, consistently embraced in matters both great and small, will keep the pathways of the heart clear. Yes, we are thrust into a greater dependence on God, but so was the radiant God-man who in one sense, took up his cross long before Calvary.

Let us take up our dying and follow him.