Take Up Your Cross

Easter. I know it's technically over but really, for followers of Christ, everyday is Easter so I think it's okay to write about it even though it's "over". Easter represents so many things for me. Newness, forgiveness, freedom. I could write forever about those things but this year, I feel like Jesus has been reminding me of another aspect of Easter and well, it's one that is a little more sobering, even a little uncomfortable.

Have you seen the Passion of the Christ? Never have I seen a depiction of Jesus's death more realistic than in that movie. I have seen it twice, each time leaving me with such raw emotion that I really didn't have words to explain what I felt. (if you know me then you know me not talking says a lot!!) I am left speechless at the display of my Savior's heart for me throughout that entire movie. The moment that literally sucks the breath right out of me is when Jesus comes to face the cross he will bare. He is thrown to the ground in front of it and his reaction is to wrap his arms around it with the little strength he has and to hold on to it as though it were a priceless treasure. You see, that moment leaves me so breathless because it shows me that Jesus didn't only bare the cross, he embraced it.

Jesus embraced fully the cross his Father asked him to bare. Sure, I've heard my whole life that he could have called angels down, he could have stopped the madness but he chose not too. For some reason though, seeing that depiction of my Savior, bloodied beyond recognition, hugging his cross as though it were precious to bare forces me to face the truth that my Savior didn't just do what his Father asked because he was obedient. He did it because he was God himself pouring his love out for mankind. Yes, Jesus chose to bare his cross, but he chose to embrace it...and he asks me to do the same.

Remember I said this Easter has been a little more sobering for me? I say sobering because as I think about Jesus embracing his cross, baring it with love and compassion, I am reminded that he is asking me to do that too. In fact, I hear him constantly in that ever gentle whisper asking me if I am willing to bare the cross. Bare a cross...how do I do that? Panic grips me. "You mean, will I die for you Lord? Is that what you are asking me to do? I don't know if I could do that. I don't know if I can give everything up". "Love is stronger than fear" he whispers. "Well, ya but do you you know what you are asking Jesus?" "No more than I gave" he reminds me. So, the sobering truth that hits me as I think about him giving everything is that there really is no greater proof of love than giving your own life away. Then I realize, what Jesus is asking me is if I am willing to give up my everyday, living, breathing life for him. Am I willing to live everyday as a servant, not a master? Am I willing to put myself out there for others, not holding back in fear? Am I willing to go as far as it takes, even unto death, for him?

The truth is that serving Jesus will cost me something...no, it will cost me everything. I tend to be that one that hesitates, worrying about risk, afraid to trust. I have a long way to go before I am like Jesus. Jesus who, knowing full well his purpose for living, healed, loved, gave, served and died. Man he asks a lot when he asks me to be like him. I am drawn to him so desperately though, that if giving my very life is what it takes, I can see no other way. I see no other choice but to bare whatever cross I must. Right now, Jesus is asking me to be vulnerable, all the time, with everybody. He asks me to lay my heart and soul out before others risking whatever may come from it. Jesus promised us that if we truly love him, we would have to take up a cross, and face much persecution in doing it. (Matt.10:38) I know that others in this world are taking up far heavier crosses, giving their breathing, living lives for Christ, and so I don't pretend to think I bare anything like that...but I want to know in my heart that I would. I want to know that I am devoted to him, even unto death, as he was and is to me.

See, what I realize now is that taking up my cross is about denial. Denial of self, of flesh. Everyday, I am presented with the choice to take up my cross or lay it down. Everyday I choose to take up love or hate, forgiveness or strife, service or power, life or death. When Jesus says "take up your cross and follow me", he is telling me that to follow him is to sacrifice. We all have something to sacrifice. What is your cross? I know now that if it doesn't cost me something it isn't sacrifice and if it isn't sacrifice, it isn't love. Love in it's purest form is complete denial of self. I want to love my God like that. I want to follow him blindly, not afraid but honored that he would allow me to carry any kind of cross that shows the world he means as much too me as I mean too him.

So, as I think about Easter this year, I think about sacrifice. I think about a cross to be carried so a burden can be lifted. I think about the freedom that comes through sacrifice and how much I need to deny myself so the truth can be lifted high. He made himself nothing so I would have everything and everything is enough...more than enough.

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