“Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.”
Jesus’ words are fine for reading, but not so easy for living. Don’t you think? Pick up a cross? I’d rather pick up a book and a cup of hot coffee, thank you. It’s hard, this Jesus-loving life. There is nothing easy about consistently doing the exact opposite of what I want to do.
Pick up the mess, pick up the school books and the teacher’s manual, pick up the dirty socks and the grocery list, and pick up the attitudes, the eye rolls, the careless words – with gentleness and wisdom. Whoever thought that the Christian life is a picnic has another thing coming. It’s a messy cross we die on as we inhale His plans and exhale ours. But it’s worth it. The only way to live fully is to willingly die every day. We meet Jesus at the altar of our wills and get to choose.
“Not my will, but Yours be done,” starts in Gethsemane, before the breaking, not Golgatha, the moment of testing. Crucifixion of self-will takes years, not hours. It’s an ongoing process kind of a thing, which appeals to me about as much as a root canal. You too? I’m so much more of a “let’s forego the journey, and just get to the destination” kind of a gal. Process kills me.
Isn’t there another way? Some way NOT to crucify my flesh and all it wants? It’s thorns piercing my scalp as I lay down, all day, my will for His. When “love one another” isn’t fuzzy and soft, but getting up and choosing joy and servanthood along with your clothes every morning, and slipping on thankfulness with your shoes.
It is not the tragedy of the century to spend my life pouring my heart, my time, my talents into others. Really, it’s not. Jesus says that if you lose your life, you’ll find it.
It’s packing Superman’s lunch instead of staying cozy with my coffee and devotional. It is a million tiny deaths, a million invitations to resurrection. I want to sink, stone heavy into self absorption, to drown slowly in a pool of my own agenda, inhale the poison of bitterness and steep long in offense and martyrdom. The end is death.
What lures me in, appeals in the moment, will kill all my relationships. It is only in dying to my way that I burst to the surface and fill my lungs with glorious oxygen. It is the “no” first so that there can be a “yes” later.
It’s sweeping aside my grand plans to write an epic blog post (a girl can dream, right?) to sit on the floor and play with Mega Blocks when my boys need some attention. Seeing to my first responsibilities isn’t as appealing after a day spent chasing toddlers and sweeping play doh crumbs off the floor, but it’s exactly what I need to do. Each and every day.
It’s letting the little hands of my daughter stir the muffin batter when I just want to do it myself and be done, already. You know what it is for you – the mundane, the quiet, the all but unnoticed thing that’s yours to do…does it feel just a bit like crucifixion to stay and do that thing with faithfulness? There’s joy on the other side, I promise.
It’s moving into vulnerability with a trusted friend, pursuing relationships that are deep and authentic and grounded in the word of God. It’s easy to keep the walls up, and not so fun to get real and honest with our friendships. But it’s what God calls us to do, and it’s crucial for emotional well being. We need it deeply.
Learning how to die starts in the here and now of living – dying to self and finding the life of Christ.
Because when you do…and you do it for Him…it all starts to become beautiful. There’s not just the pain of surrendering our desires, there’s the joy that comes only from nudging just a bit closer to Jesus. There’s the light that sparkles in the little faces upturned to ours, there’s community and communion found within the walls of our homes and spilling out into the relationships that turn friends into family.
Turns out, there’s a whole lot of living to be found on the other side of dying.
Grace, peace, and RIP-to-the-old-you-and-me,