Claiming Your Life to Lose It

Finding balance in one’s life is often an elusive goal. At times it feels like a tightrope walk or another thing added to a never-ending, guilt-inducing “to do” list. But it doesn’t have to. I’ve been framing this quest for balance in the terms of wholeness and health. In my efforts to cultivate wholeness, I have been rereading Ruth Haley Barton’s book Sacred Rhythms. I have pored over the pages of profound wisdom for orienting my life toward God. No one should be surprised at the countless simple but profound nuggets within the book, but there is one nugget in particular that has hooked me and won’t let me go.

In her chapter on discernment, Barton asks the question, “What needs to die in me in order for God’s will to come forth in my life?” This is a good question. A question that requires us to prune the tree we have mistakenly thought we made grow. But she goes on to write, “It is a mistake to ask people to be crucified with Christ before they have actually fully claimed their life.”

There is something in that sentence that resonates with me on deep level. As I recall the ways marginalized people have been spiritually manipulated by phrases like “deny yourself,” this crucial first step to claim one’s life is empowering.

But I’ve been asking myself, “What does it means to claim one’s life?” What is this prerequisite for following Jesus? This isn’t meant solely for those with checkered pasts or Damascus Road conversion stories. I wondered if this “claiming” is referring to an examined heart—to one who has acknowledged his deepest desires, claimed her giftedness, confessed our limitation, grieved our sins. One who can look oneself in the mirror and say, “Yes, this is me, warts and all, no more, no less.” Claiming one’s life seems to be an act of confession. A confession of wills. A confession of allegiances. A confession of power. And there you seem to have it. That seems to be the turning point. To bring to consciousness and to claim the power one has in one’s life and world is the crucial step to surrendering or devoting that power to the ways of God in the world, to God’s kingdom rule.

Because when we deny ourselves in order to be crucified with Christ, we aren’t simply agreeing to some intellectual doctrines. We are changing the way our lives are oriented. Our criteria for “success” and “balance” have changed. A successful life is then defined as one who will lose his or her life. A balanced life becomes one fully devoted to his or her calling.

Kasey McCollum is a hospital chaplain in Denton, TX. She is particularly focused on grief support for families experiencing perinatal and newborn death. She is a contributor to the newly released book “Finding Their Voices: Sermons by Women in the Churches of Christ” by D’Esta Love. She loves to cook but loathes doing the dishes. When she isn’t working or playing with her children you will likely find her doing hot yoga or by the campfire with friends. She lives in Denton, TX, with her husband Casey (yes, you read that correctly) and their two children, Clare and Micah.
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Author:  Publish Date: August 13, 2015

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CHARIS hosts conversations of and about Churches of Christ. The website is intended to support education for Christian life and community through contemporary discussions and historical sources that variously witness to the gifts (“charis”) of God among Churches of Christ, especially their plea for visible unity among Christians through ongoing renewal and restoration of Scriptural beliefs and practices among God’s people.

The CHARIS website is supported by Abilene Christian University (Abilene, TX, USA), the Center for Heritage and Renewal in Spirituality (CHARIS) at ACU. The purpose of CHARIS at ACU is to seek God’s blessings for a healthy relationship between the Christian college/university – its faculty, staff, and students – and the church heritage that gives identity and meaning to such a school. This underlying concern for Christian colleges/universities, and their relationship to the churches, is reflected in the form and content of the CHARIS website.

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