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Cancer is a brutal path. For me, every step of treatment involved unspeakable suffering.

The long-term damage to my body, the chronic pain. I don’t have words. One day I will. But for now, I’m still taking it one day at a time.

But today, I want to introduce you to a friend who brings me great joy and companionship, Michele Cushatt.

You may have heard her voice, her story as co-host of Michael Hyatt’s This is Your Life podcast or a speaker at many large conferences. She, too, has fought a brutal battle with cancer, and learned much about what it means to relinquish control.

Her discoveries aren’t just true when it comes to health, but work and live and parenting.

As we dive into the #LentChallenge of #Beloved in John 12:12-50 for today’s reading, allow Michelle’s words and insights to wash over you.

Here’s Michelle:

“We call her Peanut. A term of endearment and evidence of her small stature. She’s a tiny slip of a girl, much smaller than the other ten-year-olds she calls her friends.

Don’t let her size fool you, however.

She’s also a pistol. Full of spit and fire and blessed with an unyielding will. She bosses anything that breathes and assumes control of whatever room she enters.

Including mine. At least, she gives it a solid try.

“Peanut, I need you to go pick up your room, please.”

“No,” she shrugs, continuing to play.

“You also need to finish your homework before you go outside.”

“I don’t want to,” she announces as she marches out the front door.

I haul her stubborn self back inside, of course, along with her stomping feet. She’s met her match in me.

I’m equally independent, with an added three decades of practice. Let’s just say I’ve honed the craft.

And I’m not going to let a fifty-pound peanut hijack my well-ordered house. No matter her spit and fire.

One of the greatest gifts my dad gave me was a sense of independence and a strong work ethic.

Dad forced me to stand on my own and take responsibility for my life. At times, these were hard lessons for a small girl to learn.

As a woman, however, I understood their value. These skills serve me well to this day.

But independence also fostered something less attractive: stubborn pride.

A determination to take control.

To keep all details and decisions about my life and relationships squarely in the palms of my own two hands.

Our current culture would probably applaud my vigorous independence and personal achievement.

But travel back a couple thousand years, and Jesus spoke a different word about the true path to success.

In John 12, we witness three key scenes: A dinner party, a kingly procession, and a death conversation.

It begins with a dinner party given by Mary, Martha, and Lazarus in Jesus’ honor. The next day, Jesus rides into Jerusalem on a donkey to the cheers those hoping for a glimpse of their king.

The atmosphere is festive, celebratory, and full of excitement and anticipation.

Then, just about the time you think the disco ball is going to drop, Jesus interrupts the mood:

Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.” —John 12:24-25

What? This was not party talk. They’d just enjoyed a dinner party and parade.

Why did Jesus ruin it with his morbidity? Dead seeds? Hating life?

It didn’t make sense.

To many, it still doesn’t make sense.

We live in a world that values upward movement, constant productivity, outward displays of power and control.

We equate work with worth, success with significance.

If we want to be valued, we need to climb ladders, win power struggles, prove our ability to take charge, demand recognition.

Yet, in the midst of parties and parades, Jesus pushed back. And instead of cultivating fans, He readily turned toward death.

Unless a seed dies, it remains only a single seed.

Anyone who loves their life will lose it.

Both Mark 8:35 and Luke 9:24 record Jesus saying similar words. He begins his teaching in the context of His death. But then He turns the lesson to his disciples. To you. To me. He set the example, but He expected us to follow.

Unless a seed dies, it remains only a single seed.

Anyone who loves their life will lose it.

Simply, Jesus urged us to relinquish control. To let go. To resist all the world’s promises of fulfillment and instead find the secret to real and lasting life:

To Die.

Jesus’ words push hard against the swift and strong current of our wills and our culture, yesterday and today.

We are, in fact, proud. Independent. Determined to control our days and destinies.

Only we can’t. Jesus knew this. Sooner or later this truth becomes harsh reality.

Often it takes a tragedy or hardship we couldn’t predict or prevent to finally recognize the foolishness of our ladder climbing.

When the doctor calls with bad news.
When our child gets kicked out of school.
When, despite our excellent money management, the housing market collapses and we’re left with nothing.

What value is our pride and independence then?

Unless a seed dies, it remains only a single seed.

Anyone who loves their life will lose it.

The next time we’re tempted to lift our chin and march out the front door to take control of this one short life, let’s reconsider.

Rather than living to die, let’s die to live.

We have a God whose wisdom has no limits and whose love knows no end.

He has promised to lead us into a life we can’t imagine.

We can do it our way, with our peanut-sized perspective, or we can do it His, with His eternal one.

What did you least want to read but most need to hear in today’s reading?

(If you have any questions post them below. We’ll be collecting and gathering responses for insight from New Testament scholar, Craig Blomberg in the upcoming weeks).

Day 23: John 12:12-50 Discussion Questions:

  • In what area of your life are you challenged to die to live right now?
  • How does Jesus pave the path for you to die to live? What comfort do you find in knowing he knows the path of suffering?
  • What practical steps can you take to relinquish the thing you least want to give up?
  • Using the Color Method, what stood out to you most from today’s reading?
  • What do you find most challenging about today’s reading? What do you find most comforting about today’s reading?

Recommended Resources:

I Am by Michele Cushatt

Undone by Michele Cushatt

Poets & Saints by All Sons and Daughters

Day 1 | John 1:1-18 | Ash Wednesday: Your Invitation to Discover the Beloved

Day 2 | John 1:19-34 | This One Question Will Leave You Undone

Day 3 | John 1: 35-51 | What to Tell Your Children Before It’s Too Late

Day 4 | John 2:1-12 | The Shocking Miracle of Water Becoming Wine

Day 7 | John 3:22-36 | There’s a Hidden Slip N’ Slide in the Bible — I Found It!

Day 9 | John 5:1-17 | How to Overcome Jealousy

Day 12 | John 6:15-35 | What to Do When You Doubt God

Day 14 | John 7:1-39 | What’s the Difference Between Dead and Living Water?

Day 16 | John 8:1-1 | You Stumped Me… Again

Day 17 | John 8:12-59 | 7 Surprises in the Gospel of John

Day 18 | John 9 | What does spiritual blindness really cost you?

Day 22 | John 12:1-11 | What’s Your Signature Spiritual Scent?

Day 23 | John 12:12-50 | Here is a Method That is Helping Me Relinquish Control

Day 25 | John 15:1-11 | What Does a Vinter See in John 15?

Day 29 | John 16:1-15 | Little Known Ways to Be of Good Cheer

Day 31 | John 17 | The Truth About Soul Talk

Day 33 | John 18:12-40 | Was it Judas or Satan Working through Judas?

Day 35 | John 19:16-30 | What’s a Woman’s Role?

Day 39 | John 21:1-14 | Why is the Weight of the Wait So Heavy on Good Friday?

Day 40 | John 21:15-25 | The Most Powerful Lesson I Learned During Lent

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