Living Counter-Culturally

First off tonight, I just want to say a huge THANK YOU for all the lovely birthday wishes last Thursday. Wow. I was absolutely blown away by your outpouring of love. So thank you for making me feel so special! I’m grateful for you!

This morning, I was having kind of a slow morning. I had just finished breakfast, and sat down with my tea to write tonight’s post, and I wanted to have some divine inspiration. So I opened up today’s Gospel reading, which I often do to find some sort of direction.

And I came upon a very familiar verse, that to be honest has always been hard for me to grasp.

Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies,
it remains just a grain of wheat;
but if it dies, it produces much fruit.” Jn 12:24

To be honest, whenever I read verses about death, it always is challenging to understand. How could Jesus be calling us to die? That doesn’t seem to be a very loving or Fatherly thing to instruct someone you care about.

But the more I thought and prayed about this, I had another perspective put on my heart, and I thought I’d share.

Jesus isn’t calling us to death – but rather, to die to self.

Which is, not only a horse of a different color, but also exceedingly difficult to do. In a world that glorifies and celebrates self, and self expression and — more recently — this obsession with self identification that pushes boundaries…the concept of “dying to self” is not only a foreign concept, but is about as countercultural as you can get.

But then, Jesus never promised us that a life following Him would be mainstream, and on a wide, paved, toll-free highway.

To die to self is to surrender our lives to Him. To give back to Him, that which He gave to us in the first place.

Because in doing so, we are allowing Him to work, and lead us in the life that He has planned, and that He created us for.

But back to the wheat.

“Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies,
it remains just a grain of wheat;
but if it dies, it produces much fruit.”

This is such a powerful verse, because not only is an allegory to Christ as the grain of wheat, but is also an image of what our life is to be as well.

And here’s what I think is the most powerful thing to take away from it:

The wheat must die before it bears fruit.

I’ll say that again, because it was hard for me to stomach the first time: the wheat must die before it bears fruit.

If that doesn’t sober you up right now, I don’t know what will.

In order for God to use our life, we must hand it over. We must let go of, and die to the selfish wants and desires and earthly allures that are so often chased after in this life, and instead chase after Him.

And only then, will we bear fruit.

And therein lies the freedom. And the peace. And the joy. Because a life spent chasing and pursuing things that are fleeting and fickle and passing away only leaves us in a constant state of want and dissatisfaction. There is always the next best thing to strive for, or the next greatest accolade, or latest model of this or that. But when we extract ourselves from this earthly ratrace, and surrender our lives to Jesus, we will be shown what is truly worth pursuing: Him.

I am nowhere near having successfully done this yet. Every day, I try to chase after Him, but I am fully aware that there are areas – big and small – in my life that I’m holding tight to, and reluctant to hand over.

But that’s where His grace comes in. And I am grateful for the help He offers us every day.

And in the meantime, I can offer myself grace that I’m doing the best I can.

So today – it is my prayer for me and you that in this coming week, we can simply recognize the areas in our lives we are resistant to surrendering to Jesus. So that that we can continually work towards a total and complete death to self, so that we can produce much fruit.

What’s one thing you can do to die to self today?

“This is what the Lord says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life.” Ez 37:5

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125 thoughts on “Living Counter-Culturally

    1. Thank you Roy! I’m so glad it hit home with you! Definitely easier said than done! Haha Hugs and love xox

    1. Thank you Oluwatomi! So glad you thought so!! Have a beautiful evening! Hugs and love xox

  1. So true!!! Dying to self is so rewarding especially during these times, because to let go and let God brings peace of mind and spirit.

    1. Thank you Annie! You’re so right – it’s really the only way to find that peace in the chaos!! Hugs and love xox

  2. Interesting different perspective; very well thought out and expressed. I’ve always focused on the “new life/rebirth” aspect. Thank you.

    1. Oh my gosh I love that Jeff! It’s so true – that actually what my mom has always said to me too! She says if you’re ever feeling down, take yourself out of yourself and do something kind for another person. And it has always worked every time. I hope you and your girls had. A lovely weekend. Sending you guys massive hugs. Xoxo

      1. Thank you! Yes! Covid seems more under control here thankfully. Now we’ve just gotta get the crime rate down!!! Glad it was a restful weekend! Hugs and love xox

  3. Amen! We just need to seek him first and all other things will be added to our lives. This “death” is actually the only way to live a life without death. 🙂

    1. Yes! Seek Him first! Thanks so much Milly 🙂 hope you’re having an awesome day. Hugs and love xox

  4. Hey Caralyn, this very article is a good example of you dying to self. Both of us know that many people don’t like to talk about or be associated with Jesus Christ. We must die to self to openly proclaim who Jesus is, and what He’s graciously done to save our lives and our souls. Thank you for not being ashamed of Jesus and His death on Calvary’s cross. Praise God for His goodness!😀

    1. Thank you so much Joseph for sharing your thoughts on this. You’re right – we must live and claim His victory! Hugs and love xox

    1. Oh gosh thank you so much! I’m so glad it resonated with you! Have a great night! Hugs and love xox

  5. Hi Caralyn: Sorry it has been so long since I have even been reading your posts. Health has been acting up more, so lots of sleeping.

    Anyway, doing good today, read and enjoyed your post. It ties in with a devotion I read earlier today, and wrote a note to self on. It is below.

    God’s Abundant Blessings,
    Luv, 😀❤️🌹

    Matthew 16:25
    25 For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.

    A new revelation of this verse from reading a Sam Collier devotion in YV.
    Losing my life for Christ, may not mean actual physical life.
    Possibly means, giving up my own life goals and desires, which may have become idols to me, so I give up that life to follow Christ and pursue His goals for me, pursuing His ways, and Him.

    1. Hi George! It’s so great to hear from you! You’ve been in my prayers – I hope today is the first of many good days 🙂 wow what a power reflection – thank you for enriching me with that!!! Sending huge hugs!! Xoxox

  6. Death, a theological theme for sure. In baptism, we have died already. Born again, so to speak… 🤔

    And yet, also – I wholly agree. Of ‘dying’ – and turning to God…
    (In practice for me, this means to pray at the start of the day… and the evening 😀…)

  7. Love your message today Caralyn. A very good reminder and it is good to take the time to reflect if there are areas that we are holding on tight to and not surrendering to Him.
    Blessings 😊💙

    1. Thanks so much! I definitely need to take inventory of just that! Have a great night! Hugs and love xox

  8. That is an amazing verse you chose to focus on today. So many applications in that verse. There is reference to the death of Jesus necessary to facilitate life for so many of us as a result. There is the symbolism of baptism. Death to the old life and rebirth/replacement with all the nobler attributes to benefit those around us. The Holy Spirit is the catalyst that changes that seed and makes it a benefit and we are so fortunate we have the choice to cooperate in that process.

    1. Thank you Ian! Isn’t it a powerful verse?! It can be taken so many different ways! I love the symbolism of baptism too! So amazing!! Hugs and love xox

  9. Great post, Caralyn! It’s a hard one, too. One of the ways that God has shown me what it means to die to myself is when I’ve helped others who, quite honestly, didn’t deserve the kindness. It’s interesting that each of those times lasted for five years. One was in a church, sadly, and the other was for an elderly former neighbor of ours who had no one else. But oh my goodness, God taught me so much in those times of showing kindness to the unkind. Mainly, that it was about Him and not about me – because if I kept it about me, I would have walked away. Precious lessons learned, trust me! Stay safe and healthy there, Caralyn.

    1. Thanks so much Patty! Oh wow that’s such a powerful perspective. Thanks for sharing that. 🙂 Hugs and love xox

  10. Yes. This. Every word. I think this pandemic and shutdown is God teaching me some things about dying to self, although so far I have not done the best job of listening and learning.

  11. Oh, I hope you had a very happy birthday. I am a shade dismayed if I miss something, like a special occasion like that. However, very nice to read your meditative post tonight, maybe one that shares the peace you find in the Gospel, and that sets a tone for another year ahead.

    It could keep on being a troublesome year, so appreciate the joy when it’s here, and keep up the brilliant blogging. Take care, and ta for now.

  12. ‘it produces much fruit.’ Love love love this I see it a bit differently.. not as dying to self.. Kingdom of Heaven is within the self.. bible says that.
    The grain of wheat obviously doesn’t stay in its original form. It busts open to become something completely different. The inside bursts out and it absorbs the water, the nutrients of the soil and it does what it is created to do and it winds itself up through the soil to where the sunlight is because in its new form it cannot survive without The Sun which represents God of course. It grows so that it can create other grains of wheat and so forth.. It’s Gods spirit within us that opens up from the original self and the Kingdom branches out of us.. Those of us who use the internet have so much potential to reach way beyond what we could reach physically.. Spirit is far greater then a physical body.
    Its so timely as the book I’m reading is about being broken and God using that brokenness.. I’m blogging on that.. slowly though but your post encourages me to keep going with it. We cannot stay the same it’s true.. just my thoughts thank you..

    1. Thanks so much Sharon!! Wow this is such a powerful reflection. Thank you for sharing your heart!! Yes!! Hugs and love xox

  13. Two days ago (Aug 8th) I woke and posted this thought:
    “The messager is the message or as we said in the 60s, the media is the message. Critical to the apostles’ testimony is their witness of Jesus’s suffering and messianic death as a holy act of salvation. Jesus died “for [the sins of] everyone”. “Whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus.”(Colossians 1:28)

  14. My dear Caralyn,

    We all agree that God is the Doer, that everything is in His hands, but nevertheless we treat ourselves in such a way that we are the doers. This in fact is our ego, our selfish mind which is self-oriented. We say when we have done something that we are even proud of it – even this pride is a brother ego, mind. So the most difficult thing is to give up our own ego and mind, to let it die in order to surrender into the will of God. In this connection I want to repeat what I once have shared with you: “The shadow thinks it is moving but it is the light that is moving the shadow…” The shadow is our ego that thinks it is the doer without being aware that the Light of God is moving it. We have to become shadowless to enter the Light of God as light. And indeed, when we give up our greed, our anger, our ego, our attachments, our lust (the 5 cardinal thieves within our mind), only surrender to God, not just by words but by deeds if our longing for God is getting so strong that we cannot live without Him anymore, that our love to Him is so strong that we see Him even everywhere (when people are in love they also have their full attention to the beloved one, all their thoughts are focused on the one they love so much), then the grain falls down and dies, our own shadow, our own ego will die and it will bear fruit in the Garden of God…

    If this happens then we are aware that we are not just the body, but much more than that, then we know we are conscious beings, drops of the Ocean of the Almighty, light in the light…

    From heart to heart, my dear friend 🙂
    Love and light to you and yours
    Didi

    1. Dear friend Caralyn,

      Maybe this poem also fits to your subject stated.
      Thank you for your attention, my friend 🙂
      Didi

      Journey to become honest and pure

      To be honest
      Is a matter of consciousness
      To know our own mistakes
      A process – walking into the depth

      It is easy to say: “I am honest”
      How many things we have overseen
      Have not considered as honesty, dishonesty
      In our daily life?

      Yes, I am honest according to what I know
      About my present state of mind
      Present knowledge of myself
      But what about the ignorance of myself?

      Then I have missed many things
      To consider as honesty, dishonesty
      So walking in ourselves
      Is to discover, to know ourselves – more and more…

      What I claimed yesterday as honesty
      May be today under a broadened horizon
      So we bear honesty on our shoulders
      To get lighter and lighter from ourselves…

      The more we find us
      The more we lose us
      Detached from the world and even ourselves
      To become pure in our hearts…

      DidiArtist, 15.01.2020

    2. Hi Didi!! Oh this is so beautiful. It is the light that is moving the shadow. That is just so incredibly powerful. Thank you for this wonderful perspective. You are a blessing to me! Hugs and love xox

    1. Aw thank you Penny! Wow I am touched by your generous words!! Glad you enjoyed it! Hugs and love xox

  15. Oh, Caralyn, I have always professed the same and strived to live by these words, but today, I’m finding that very hard. We are in the midst of planning my oldest daughter’s wedding for next month. Every day is a struggle. Every day is one of uncertainty–what rules will change today, what restrictions will be put into place, how many people will we have to cut, will we be allowed to have a Mass, and so many more questions that have no answers. Things that were set and done have been undone. Things that were certain are now uncertain. I have never been more anxious, yet I keep reminding myself that He has this. My daughter and I need to keep our chins up and our knees on the ground and remember that God will take care of everything. It’s not easy, but we must try. They’ve been together for 7 years, engaged for 18 months, and just want to be man and wife, married in the Church, celebrating with their loved ones. I pray for them every moment of every day.

    1. Hi Amy!! Thank you so much for sharing your heart. I am right there with ya. In this “survival mode” we find ourselves in currently, its hard to die to self. That’s so exciting about your daughters wedding! But gosh, yeah I can’t imagine the stress from covid restrictions! I will be praying for you all as the day draws near! Yes He’s got this!!!! Sounds like they have a beautiful love!! Xox

  16. There are many spiritual paradoxes in our walk with Jesus. We must die to self to really live, to be free we must surrender to Jesus, and to be exalted we must humble ourselves. The Kingdom of God is diametrically opposite to the world. Enjoyed your perspective.

  17. Such a great truth in that verse. Dying to self is to gain everything in Christ!
    Thanks Caralyn. 🙌

  18. Amen and amen. Glory to God and thanks so much for sharing this post. At first I wanted to jump to my feet and virtually applaud…then was reminded to fall to my knees and giving God thanks for His amazing grace. All the glory to Him. Happy belated birthday Caralyn and have a wonderfully blessed day

    1. Aw thank you so much Indra! Yes!! Fall to our knees indeed…we are so incredibly loved and blessed! And thanks for the birthday wishes! 🙂 Hugs and love xox

  19. I’m in a season of constant self-denial of my wants and desires. It can be really hard. But this has helped me to refocus. If I want to experience fruitfulness, I must continue to die to myself. Thanks for this reminder.

    1. Thanks for sharing that J! What a powerful season! Praying for you, warrior!! 🙂 Hugs and love xox

  20. That’s so good! This world is constantly promoting self care and sometimes, we don’t even realize that we’re going the same way when Christ has called us to die to ourselves. Thank you for this reminder.

    1. Thank you Hanna! You’re so right – that’s what He’s called us to do! Hugs and love xox

  21. Beautiful post. I know exactly what I need to do and have been trying to do it lately—put other people first. Even with little things and not just big things. And specifically my family.

    1. Thank you Alexander! That’s a beautiful thing – putting others first. Kudos!! Hugs and love xox

  22. Thank you for the post. Dying to self is so difficult. If we put everyone else first, we can find ourselves in a closer walk with Jesus. Thanks for your encouragement today.

    1. Thank you so much – you’re absolutely right. It is literally the hardest thing we are called to do. But yes – it brings us closer to Him! Hugs and love xox

  23. I think there’s little doubt that Christianity is counter-cultural. Jesus was (is) true to his tradition, but he had harsh words for its contemporary keepers. He also offers us, as you so clearly note, promises that seem paradoxical, because they are. He tells us to bear a yoke that’s easy, when the world knows no yoke is easy (or it’s not a yoke). And we must die to live. Which is for eternity and for today. You explain this so well, the death to self so that we are free to believe and follow Jesus. I agree, we have things in the way. For me, it might be chronic pain or, easier, chronic dissatisfaction. Things with which to deal.

    I hope this new year of life for you is splendid.

    1. You’re right about that! And so true – we must die to live. Thank you for your encouraging words. Praying for your chronic pain – that is no fun :(. Hugs and love xox

  24. When I consider that death in Christ is the means to heaven in the presence of God, it becomes preferable to me. Don’t get me wrong, I love my family and treasure my time with them. But I definitely understand what the apostle Paul was speaking about in Philippians 1:20-24. To live is Christ, to die is gain! C.S. Lewis put it this way, “It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”

    C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory

    1. Thank you so much Eden! Oh wow what a powerful quote! CS Lewis was so wise. Hugs and love xox

    1. Thank you so much Grace! I’m so glad this hit home with you today! Have a wonderful afternoon! Hugs and love xox

  25. That really is the essence of living a Gospel-centered life. It’s not about our desires, it’s about Him giving us new ones (Psalm 37:4). I have been learning even more how to do this through the COVID era. Blessings Caralyn! One day when I’m up in NYC when this is all over, let’s grab coffee.

    1. Thank you so much! You’re so right – Him giving us new ones, I absolutely LOVE that. And YES! coffee would be so much fun!!! 🙌🏼 Hugs and love xox

    1. Thanks Temiloluwa! I’m so glad it resonated with you 🙂 I hope you’re having a great week! Hugs and love xox

  26. Love this post! We live in a world that is so self-absorbed that we often forget it’s not about us. And I think so many of us would be a lot happier if we pursued God instead of worshipping ourselves.

    Thanks for sharing, and hope you’re doing well 🙂

    – Katie

    1. Thank you so much Katie! 🙂 you’re so right – it’s not about us! Hugs and love xox

    1. Thanks so much Jacinta!! I definitely do too! Thank you for stopping by! Hugs and love xox

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