“Pick up your cross and follow me.” Sounds easy enough. Try to act in a way that appears to be in compliance with what God wants and adheres to the rules of morality it seems like Christians keep.
Is that all it takes?
The literal cross that Christ died on represents far more than just a set of rules for us to follow. Being hung on a cross was considered the worst form of punishment, reserved for the most heinous wrong-doers. It led to an agonizing death.
Somehow, this idea has transformed today into dainty jewelry and tiny tattoos that are devoid of the blood-stained splinters.
Prior to being forcibly placed on the cross, persons headed to their final destination were made to carry their own cross. Y’all, these crosses are made from trees. Huge pieces of wood that were probably not sanded around the edges to make them smooth. The literal shape of them make them cumbersome to carry – especially considering the carrier had more than likely already suffered beatings, starvation, and other forms of punishment prior to the climb.
Are we really called to do this, too? It goes against the grain of our picturesque lives. Even in a pandemic where people are losing their lives, we have found a way to make wearing masks an accessory. Maybe it’s our way of putting on rose-colored glasses in order to protect ourselves from the heartache of the fallen world around us.
Here’s the thought that has been resonating within my heart this week – in order to pick up our cross, we have to lay it all down.
Picking up our cross means carrying the burden of serving others when you don’t want to. Choosing to refrain from certain things – not because it’s a RULE, but because it will lead you astray from the things that point you towards Christ. Not hanging out where everyone else is because of your addiction. Not watching certain things on television because of what it stirs up in your own heart. Only you know what these things are in your personal walk.
I need you to know that God is not trying to put a damper on your fun. He’s not trying to take away your freedom or restrict your access. He just knows more than we do that the things of this world provide a passing pacification. Chasing clout can so often leave us feeling emptier, that if we can learn to pick up our own cross, maybe we can stop running past places where we are called to simply rest.
In order to do so, we have to lay it down. It can be a number of things – anxiety, feeling of unrest, anger, depression, addiction, righteousness, control. We can’t hold on to these things and move forward at the same time. We have to be willing to empty ourselves and let go of the things weighing us down in order to then have the capacity to pick up our crosses and do the work God has called us to do.
The way God showed it to me it this. When Grey is working on his Legos and I ask him to do something else, he is often so absorbed in his task, he does not even hear me. The work he is doing feels really important to him. He’s been moving blocks and adding other toys to create his masterpiece. Once he becomes alert that I am asking him to do something different, he is faced with a dilemma. If he stops to do what I asked, there’s a good chance Harlow will mess up the thing he has been working on.
For whatever reason, baby sisters don’t always appreciate intricate tow truck garages constructed by their big brothers.
But from where I’m standing, this particular formation doesn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things. We will inevitably take it apart when it’s time to clean up. In fact, we might even build something better if Harlow were to take some of the pieces away.
Of course, we never want to think God would take anything from us. It MUST be the devil, we think. I challenge you to consider that God is making a space for you to lay it down, so that you can pick Him up.
Matthew 16:24-26 “Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?”
1 Corinthians 1:18 “For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”
Luke 14:27 “Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.”
John 10:17 “For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again.”