Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Death, At The Age of 33

As I sat in the bathroom of my parents home at the age of 17, I was day dreaming as I relieved my bladder(because don't we all do our best thinking on the toilet) about who knows what when I looked over at the bathroom counter and saw thread laying mysteriously in shape of two numbers side by side; 33. As I sat there, this strange fear came over me as I felt in that moment that I would somehow die at the age of 33. I began to cry as thoughts filled my head. After I regained composer, I realized was a rediculous, stupid thought that was. God would never show me something like that! I never told anyone about that moment as I feared I would be deemed crazier than I already was. I did my best to push the weird, uncomfortable thoughts to the back of my mind and carry on with life. I went about the rest of high school, college, and first marriage with it creeping in and out of my head. When the thought arose, I would quickly push it to the deepest parts of my heart, continuing to keep it sealed tightly in a little glass box. I figured the glass would be easier to break versus a padded lock if I ever really wanted to get in and deal with the ridiculous thought.

After my 30th birthday, the thought was more prominent as the realization that I was quickly approaching the age of 33. I started wondering more and more if it could possibly be true and then began contemplating all the ways in which I could possibly die. However it would be, I prayed it would be quick and painless(I cried from hang nails). Fear began to start creeping in...did I do enough for you Lord? Am I being punished?  Then came sadness...my sweet girls!! That glass box now had cracks in it and the thoughts more regularly seeped through.

I repeatedly told several close friends how I wanted my funeral to be, in passing and to them to be funny all while in the back of my mind somewhat preparing for D-day. I wanted bright colors, a band, red ranunculus/anemones on my casket, food trucks, confetti, specific songs to be played during the photo montage. I figured it didn't hurt to be prepared and since I am a planner/control freak, I'd just plan my own shin dig so others wouldn't stress over it! 

One night specifically when I was 31, I finally broke the silence about this thought I had had for close to 15 years. I went to music theater with my dear friend Angela and afterwards sat in her driveway talking. Some how I was comfortable enough in her presence to share my dream with her. I wanted to speak it out loud so that if it came to pass, it could in some way be used to glorify Christ. For a second I hesitated wondering if Angela would think I was crazy, but ended up spilled my guts. She didn't think I was crazy, even thought I am sure she was eager to get out of my car! She responded with encouragement and love. I never shared with anyone again until recently. 

That day came to a close like the rest and I truly didn't think too much about it again until I literally turned 33. Little did I know that some of my choices would contribute and lead to the death of a marriage just a few weeks after my 33rd birthday. Two months after the death of my marriage, I hit rock bottom, and died to my pride by going to an anxiety/depression treatment center for a month. Upon my return, I died to  control. Realizing the reigns were never mine to hold onto anyway. I have died to selfishness time and time again. I have died of sheer heart ache like I have never experienced before. I have died to old habits. I have died to loneliness and despair, to perfection and labels. I have died a thousand times and a thousand times again since my 33rd birthday and for that matter my entire life.

Last week and especially this past weekend might have been one of the hardest, most pain-staking yet. I can honestly say that once again I hit rock bottom. I sat in complete silence and tried to tame the gerbil on the wheel. As I sat with tears blurring my eyes, I began to see a ray of light moving slowing into the small dark room I was sitting in. As the sunlight grew brighter, this overwhelming sense of peace came over me. In that moment it all made sense. My death was not in the way I had worried about off and on for over 15 years(Let me just tell you, I thought of all kinds of ways my life would end). It wasn't a physical death I would die, but rather a death to my very own self! This mere surviving I have been doing day in and day out was not going to work for me any longer in that moment of clarity. I wanted nothing more than to stand up and truly LIVE in complete trust and faith. I knew that in order for there to be air in my lungs, I needed to surrender some pretty big strongholds. I had to fully DIE to my selfishness, pride, guilt, shame, body, loneliness, plans, peoples opinions, friendships and the list could go on. The brain is insane people! Retraining it as a 33 year old is proving to be one of the most difficult things I have ever done outside of parenting(scared to screw my kids up...another thing I had to die to).

The concept of “dying to self” is found throughout the New Testament. It expresses the true essence of the Christian life, in which we take up our cross and follow Christ. Dying to self is part of being born again; the old self dies and the new self comes to life (John 3:3–7). Dying to self is both a one-time event and a lifelong process. 

Jesus spoke repeatedly to His disciples about taking up their cross (an instrument of death) and following Him. He made it clear that if any would follow Him, they must deny themselves, which means giving up their lives—spiritually, symbolically, and even physically, if necessary. This was a prerequisite for being a follower of Christ, who proclaimed that trying to save our earthly lives would result in our losing our lives in the kingdom. But those who would give up their lives for His sake would find eternal life (Matthew 16:24–25Mark 8:34–35). Indeed, Jesus even went so far as to say that those who are unwilling to sacrifice their lives for Him cannot be His disciples (Luke 14:27).

So, even though I still have a ways to go before I turn 34...ahhh!!! get here quick...I see that most likely death at 33 is not going to be caused by a physical act or illness, but rather the realization that I MUST continue to die to myself and surrender to Christ whole heartedly. This will no doubt be a life time process, that will eventually lead me closer to the heart of God each step and each surrender I give. When I do take my final breath; however that may be, I know I will have eternity with Christ, waiting for me with big open arms saying, well done. 

2 comments :

  1. Thank you for being courageous enough to share your journey. Life as a disciple is so humbling. Dying to ourselves is painful and yet freeing. I hope your transparency and vulnerability will encourage others to do the same. We are all a "hot mess" it's so much easier / better when we do life together!
    These are some of the verses that encourage and keep me centered:
    Isaiah 61:3
    Isaiah 40:31
    2 Timothy 1:7
    Romans 5:3-5
    Psalm 34:5
    Ephesians 6:10
    Romans 8:6
    2 Cor 12:9
    I John 4:18

    Blessings Ashley!!
    Be strong and courageous ❤️
    Shellee Methe

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  2. Always when you dream about death it is always the end of something, I have studied dreams alot and talk to my students about it ....because most of the time at one time in your life you will dream....I just had this talk at the beginning of the year with one of my students and it was the end of her living with her mother and going to live with her dad. Thank you Ash for your "real-ness"...God is the only one who can fill the void, and boy do I know this...tam <3

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