On a winding road in the foothills of India, I saw a bloody, dead body. The young woman had ridden her scooter off a bridge and into a rocky riverbed. Her body had been carried out by a relative. She looked like a stone, like a sculpture of Mary holding the dead body of Jesus in her arms. At least that’s how it was etched into my mind.
While overseas, death was all around me. I had somehow always found a way to hide from it in the states. But over there, I could not.
On many days, thoughts of my death would come crashing into mind, breaking through my guardrails of confidence. In a sense, I did die, over and over. It did not happen the way I had thought it would. I had wanted to be a martyr. I just hadn’t prepared to be one daily.
However, I should have been prepared for this. Christ himself commanded us to deny ourselves and take up our crosses and follow Him (Matthew 16:24). And Amy Carmichael said that “missionary life is simply a chance to die”. It’s normal for Christians face their deaths in various ways and times. In this way the Lord is glorified.
Life overseas was a constant cross to carry in two ways: I died outwardly and inwardly. Outwardly, I was sick for three months upon arrival. One night I screamed out in pain as my insides seized. The next morning I told medical personnel that I thought I was dying. They asked me why. “I have never died before, but this is the closest I have been,” I said. They didn’t believe me. But I was dying.
The failure of my physical body at that time demanded the death of my flesh. The crucifixion of your will comes quickly when your body is disabled. When the body–a vehicle to carry out the desires of heart–is broken, you simply cannot do what you want. In my case, however, at least I could still scream.
Inwardly, the death was different. I felt inadequate in my mind. God didn’t oppose these apprehensions in me. He never took them away. The Lord just said, “What will you do? Will you trust me?”
The last thing I wanted to do was run toward the Person throwing the greatest blows. Just as personal as my sin was, so were his blows. I learned that when He decides to do His sanctifying work in our lives, He has the right to kill things we adore about ourselves. These blows to ego could be described by some as abuse, especially if they weren’t motivated and carried out in love. That has been my consolation, that He loves me.
Life overseas sometimes made me as lifeless as that dead young women beside the bridge. In making me face troubles of all kinds, within and without, He put me to death. In His effort to do great things through me, Christ had to do great things in me. In fact, those two ideas are an inseparable couple. You simply cannot do things for the Lord without His work in your heart.
Surprisingly, as He killed my flesh, love came to life in me. As the cataracts were removed from my eyes, like Paul I could begin to see His work in my life more clearly. I could understand that He would bring death to me so that more life could be born. Following him into his mission is indeed a chance to live. Even more so, it is a chance to die.