by Kim Allen, Director of SHINE Children's Ministry
Not too long ago, I had one of my worst weeks in recent memory. It was one of those wake-up-in-a-bad-mood and slam-the-kitchen-cabinet-doors-in-misery weeks. I was mad at everybody and couldn’t even begin to explain why, other than the fact that nothing was going my way. You have to admit that sometimes, there’s a certain satisfaction in just admitting you’re ticked off. And if mama ain’t happy, heaven help the rest of you.
But once this weary soul has exhausted her emotional energy on empty endeavors —which has not profited anyone, and certainly not the kitchen cabinets—I calm down and admit my desperate need for something outside of my own ability, my need for a Savior. I come to the end of self once again: the pattern of repentance carves its familiar groove in me just a little deeper, engraving my soul closer to Jesus.
This is not a popular idea. As a matter of fact, most modern answers to this dilemma feed us more self. However, I have just demonstrated that this method requires the rest of my family to walk on eggshells while I indulge the self and its petty grievances. And then I’m still miserable because I have pinned these unrealistic expectations on something that is completely unable to fulfill or satisfy me and I find myself back where I started. Or worse.
Repentance and the denial of self is not a natural inclination. The reason we know this is twofold: first, Jesus puts the whole thing into perspective in Luke 9:23: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.” Pretty unambiguous if you ask me. This implies that we are not already denying ourselves (because we are choosing our own way) and therefore we are invited to a 180 degree turn (follow Jesus). Second, Jesus knew the source of true life was not found in our selves, but only in Him. Otherwise, wouldn’t He have said we already had the source of living water within? Based on John 7:37-39, Jesus entreats us to seek Him out as our only hope and source of life. The self cannot possibly produce true life; only in seeking Christ as our Fountain can we find living water to slake our thirst.
Now before anyone takes this to the extreme and uses it as a excuse to stop exercising, realize that there is a difference between caring for our bodies/minds/marriages, etc. (and whatever other good gifts God has given us) and indulging the self. But beware, because the self is deceptive and easily slides into first place without so much as a blink. As my friend Rebecca once told me, her “me time” was so overrated that when it did happen, it didn’t actually make her a better wife or mom and when it didn’t happen, her frustration and disappointment was. . . incredibly frustrating and disappointing. Jeremiah laments this very fact as he reminds us, “The heart is deceptive above all things and beyond cure; who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9) Even this venerable Old Testament prophet knew he couldn’t trust his own inclinations.
So what’s the remedy? How in the world can we possibly overcome this me-first that is within us? If it’s an endless struggle, why am I even trying? Won’t I just find myself back at this same spot tomorrow? Absolutely. But that is what this Fountain of Living Water is all about: repentance is not a once-and-done. We are continually repenting, turning away from our own fountains, especially self, and turning to Jesus. He offers a fathomless well that will not run dry, no matter how many times He has to fill our bucket. And then He carves that groove just a little deeper once again. Which causes me to ask: what are the false fountains and shallow wells that I am turning to instead of the Fountain of Life?
The Breadbox is our Children's Ministry email. This monthly publication arrives chock-full information about SHINE, but also tips and resources on how you can disciple your small people.