Earlier this week my mom and I had gone out for dinner and a movie. We settled on “The
Odd Life of Timothy Green.” I had read a basic synopsis and some reviews online and itseemed like it would be a charming, sweet story. I wasn’t really prepared for how profound and deeply impacting it would be. The story centers on a couple who are grieving because they cannot have children. That night, during a storm, they are astonished to find a young boy in their home. He seems to adopt the couple (rather than the other way around) and the new parents soon find their boy fulfilling everything they’ve wanted in a child, with one exception…Timothy has leaves growing on his legs. As he interacts with the townspeople, his kindness transforms them and heals broken relationships. Every time this happens, one of his leaves falls off. After the last leaf has fallen, Timothy disappears, leaving the town changed by his influence, and giving his parents the courage and desire to adopt a child of their own.
For quite some time now I have been wrestling through the spiritual and practical implications of Christ’s command to be willing to die to oneself and allow His life and love to characterize our lives. I’ve balked and struggled with this in part because I don’t know what this would look like in an average person’s life, and also because I’ve been afraid. “Die to self”? Does this mean I shouldn’t do anything I like doing or not want to be happy? Do I give up my job to do ministry somewhere? Do I give away more of my resources to those who need them? If so, how much more? These are the sorts of questions I mull over when considering this. Then suddenly, watching Timothy Green, I had a “eureka” moment – it all crystallized into sudden clarity. His life was the embodiment of dying to self. As he did kind deeds for others and his leaves fell off, we can see that he is saddened and disturbed by it – he knows his time is short and he has many lives to touch. But the very act of giving grace to others shortens his time with them. He understands this, yet chooses to give rather than protect himself. This is the essence of Christ’s command. We are always to be yielded and willing to be carriers of His grace, sharing His love, regardless of the outcome. In fact, we should be proactively looking for such opportunities. Every day I can die to self and show love when I respond gently to anger, have patience instead of irritation, share freely without being greedy.
In a goodbye note Timothy left to his parents, he explains that he gave his leaves away to the various townspeople he interacted with. “Life is a gift” he told them. It is the most precious gift we have…use it wisely…spend it all. This is the lesson I’ve learned from Timothy.
Blessings to you,