We cling to the unredeemed parts of ourselves out of fear and because doing so is what we know. We don’t have enough of a God-bathed imagination to imagine anything else. We are scared of the uncertainty involved in surrendering to God. But as we learn to become completely dependent on God, who has always shown himself to be trustworthy, we learn to stop ﬁghting the demise of godlessness in us, like a restless child who ﬁnally stops ﬁghting sleep. As we confess our sins and waywardness and put to death the deeds of the ﬂesh, trusted others function as pallbearers at our “death of self” funeral. Together with us, our friendly pallbearers bid adieu to the old, rebellious us. With us, they bid good riddance to what unleashes destruction in the world. We don’t shed any tears.
Because we are at our weakest in the desert, the desert experience almost forces us to practice becoming utterly dependent on God, as we should always be. When we are submissive to him in our dying to self, we can be submissive to him in the ways and means of resurrection life. Yet we must keep in mind that each death and resurrection is unique. Just when we think we’ve got dying to self down pat, we must relearn mortiﬁcation. Dying is never easy. Still, after much practice, dying to self becomes easier. Maybe it’s because we ﬁnally come to terms with the reality that we have to die in order to live. There’s no way around it. John Chryssavgis writes, “The more involved our exposure to the way of the cross, the more intense our experience of the light of resurrection.”
Although it is quite bewildering and counterintuitive, as we are submissive to God and his ways amid our weaknesses (including our death to self), we are growing spiritual muscles and becoming strong. We are becoming whole. This truth of God—that at our weakest points we are strongest—can seem like such foolishness to us. Nevertheless, it is in this weakened state of death and dying that we are most powerful. It’s in our weaknesses that God’s strength is revealed. That is why the apostle Paul could say:
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Cor. 12:9–11)