I sometimes get confused by the challenge in the Gospel inviting us to lay down our life for others. It sounds like it’s asking me to climb a mountain carrying a cross and getting killed for the sake of others or laying down in the middle of a busy highway to prove my undying love for someone. And I’m not there yet in my spiritual journey. Quite frankly, I’m not sure I’ll ever get that far in the laying-down-your-life department.
But if you look at it, there are many ways each of us lay down our life for others. Daily.
We leave the comfort of our home and go to work to earn daily bread for our family.
We get up in the middle of the night to hold our infant children, feed them, and rock them back to sleep.
We use our hard-earned money to pay for our children’s education. We give and serve the poor and needy. And we stay in committed relationships with our loved ones, even though the road gets bumpy and complicated at times.
Maybe we lay down our lives for others a lot each day. We just aren’t aware of when and how often we do it.
When we yield to the car in front of us and waive them into our lane; or when we bite our tongues when someone sends a verbal jab our way and we really want to tongue-lash them back, but don’t. And when we take time to be alone and rest in the Quiet, so we can recenter, rebalance, and reconnect with our soul, we’re laying down our life for ourselves, God, and others.
When we do lay down our life, what we get back in return is integrity—the knowledge that we are living our life in a whole, balanced, purposeful way. That awareness reminds us of who we are: God’s beloved, here to receive, and be love in the world.
We have to be careful, however about either extreme of laying down our life. On one hand, we can bastardize the invitation and become door mats for others, letting them walk all over our life. That’s when we need to pull back, reconsider why we are over-doing the lay-down-your-life for others invitation and remember we are not responsible for the happiness of others. We are only called to love them unconditionally and walk beside them as best as we can.
On the other extreme, living a life of pure selfishness, a what’s-in-it for-me attitude, can also be detrimental to the natural flow of how were created to be: the pure energy of Divine love.
Striking the proper balance of laying down our life is a process, and a life-long journey. Sometimes we get it right, and other times we fall prey to either extreme and have to reexamine our motives. That’s when we can turn to the Creator to seek guidance and direction. And perhaps one of the best tests to find the proper balance is to ask our self whether our actions are loving toward all of these three:
Our self, and
When our love for all three is in balance, we’ve discovered the art of laying down our life.
—brian j plachta