Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.
It's sometimes easier to take up your cross than to deny yourself. That cross is pressed upon you. You find yourself cast out from your brothers and sisters for no good reason; you find yourself buried and hopeless in a marriage; you find an enemy taking shots at you at work. All of these things are forced upon you, and so is the dignity to bear them.
Self denial is never forced upon us.
And it is nigh unto unreasonable to deny myself. The creation is good. Why deny my part in it? Why live without any of the many blessings God made for us joy? And yet, the Lord says to deny myself. Why?
I am exploring this in my life right now, so I may as well blog on it just a little. I am considering a denial, and not sure whether it is a valuable exercise. So, what you have here in this little post is not an answer, but a guess. I do this all the time. I hypothesize something, and try to live it out and see whether it works. I also pray for wisdom and search the scriptures, but in the end it's a guess.
Here's my guess on denial.
Denial is how you release the dross so you can hold the gold.
Let me take television as an example. Watching television burns fewer calories than sleeping, and it puts the brain into a state of lethargy that is almost unparalleled in human existence. It is a remarkable device with incredible power.
Many people decide to deny themselves the television. They figure anything that much fun and that unproductive cannot be good, so they give it up for lent. Some actually stick to it, while most eventually go back. But denial for its own sake never works for me. I deny myself the television for blogging. (In case you've ever wondered where I find the time to be so verbose, I never turn on the television, and voila - instant time.)
If I deny myself the television because it allows me to do something much more valuable, opening my heart and thoughts to my brothers and sisters, then there's a reason. There's a profit.
Jesus stood by the Samaritan well, and said that he had other food than His disciples, to do the will of His Father. He did not say, "I deny myself food. I beat my body to release My Spirit. I am above physical needs because I AM a spiritual man." Instead, Jesus explained His self-denial by referencing that which He gained.
It's an opening thought. Maybe I will have more some day.