Tuesday March 16 – Day 28 – PICK UP YOUR CROSS

 In Lenten Devotional

Tuesday March 16 – Day 28 – PICK UP YOUR CROSS

“23 Then Jesus said to all the people:
If any of you want to be my followers, you must forget about yourself. You must take up your cross each day and follow me. 24 If you want to save your life, you will destroy it. But if you give up your life for me, you will save it.” – Luke 9:23-24 (CEV)

Jesus said many things in the apex of his ministry on earth that were recorded in the Gospels.  This particular verse is problematic and cumbersome, and something that I have struggled with my whole life as a Jesus follower.

“How do I forget myself when I am the ONLY one living this life?”

It is one thing to say “think of others before yourself” it is a completely different matter to forget ourselves, or as the New International Version says, deny ourselves.

We need to eat.  We need to take care of our bodies.  We have desires and passions and dreams for this life and I believe that God allows us to follow our dreams and EVEN encourages it.  However when you look at this call in Luke, it complicates matters plenty.

One thing that the pandemic has shown is not only the selfishness in others but also the selfishness in myself.  It is a daily fight to challenge myself to deny or forget myself, take up my cross and follow Jesus.  During this Lenten season, it has magnified my need to take care of myself, make my daily lists for myself and make sure that I am taking care of myself, because I cannot expect others to do it for me.

The pandemic has also made me so much more anxious about my life expectancy.  Every trip to the grocery store, every interaction in public that I need to make in order to take care of daily life has me feeling in the back of my mind that this could be my last outing before contracting the virus and getting deathly ill.

The focus is easily on me, and when it is, I am only living HALF of this passionate and purpose fulfilled life that God has called me to live.

I have a former student of mine that has been diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer.  She has been fighting this for a year now, and her post on Facebook this morning brought me to my knees:

So how does one tell these faces “Mommy has cancer”…?
“___” is 7yrs old. She has a little friend whose mom is dying of cancer.
“_____” is 3yrs old. She doesn’t know what cancer is.
Your guess is as good as mine.

The text was accompanied by the faces of her two sweet and joy filled children.  Children that should not have to be separated from their mother.  Children who should have their mother at all of their graduations, weddings and births of their own children.  This is not only unfair, it is sadistic.  God has the ability to heal her and to show His power through this miraculous event.  Instead, my student is left with limited time with her beautiful family walking a journey of suffering, pain and grief that no young parent should ever face.

As I shared with your yesterday, I am angry with God for taking my friend Steve home and leaving his two children and wife without a Dad and husband.  I am even more angry that my student has to deal with all of this.  There is no meaning in my human comprehension and understanding here.  It makes MORE sense for God to show How amazing and powerful He is by healing them.  Both would have acknowledged God in their miracles as they both love Jesus with every fibre of their being.

How could Steve and how could my former student forget about themselves?  THIS is their life to live.  It makes more sense to focus completely on self in order to experience the most that life has to offer in the limited time remaining.

As I shared with you yesterday, Steve packed a lot of life in his almost 8 years.  His acts were mainly selfless ones that assisted other people.  On social media, I keep reading about the ways he helped countless young musicians, sound technicians and other creatives in their artistic callings.  Honestly, if it was ME, I would turn my phone off, shut down all of my social media accounts and live in my studio listening to all of my records and playing my guitars.  I would not want to create any new music because that would be work, and work I would probably never finish so why do it?

I would be all about ME ME ME.

I would want my family home and with me, making them miserable in the process.

In the midst of all these thoughts, this passage from Luke rubs me the wrong way.  It makes me even more angry that God would make such a suggestion:  forgetting about myself, taking up my cross and following Jesus.

And yet, this is exactly what the Son of Man did, in order that we would live forever.

Jesus COULD have lived the perfect life.  He WAS God, so He could have lived the richest most comfortable life of anyone in history.  He could have had any convenience at His disposal and lived a reclusive life.

But if He had, our numbers would all be up with no chance for forgiveness or eternity spent with God.  Instead, darkness, emptiness and judgment.  If you think this life is long, imagine eternity!

If we attempt to protect ourselves from every potential pain, hurt, failure and trouble, we will lose our lives trying to save what is ours.

Surrendering everything to Jesus means just that.  If we decide to give up our lives, our family, our friends, our financial futures, our careers, our desires and our personal agendas, Jesus promises to give all of our lives back to us.

But on days like today, I don’t believe this promise.  I don’t believe He will do what He says.  I am skeptical.  There are things I cannot give up, and I refuse to accept this invitation simply because I do not trust the offer.

And herein lies the rub:  I have truly missed the good news of the Gospel all of this time if I cannot surrender.  Why do I feel that some aspects of my life can be surrendered but the other ones, the ones I hold closest to my heart, are non negotiable?  Haven’t I seen the hand of God in my life in the past?  Don’t I remember what He did for me at my lowest point?  Do I forget how He forgave me of my sins and moved me from a place of darkness to a life filled with light and promise and hope?  Do I forget those public moments of praise in community with other believers and felt the movement of the Holy Spirit in the room drawing me closer to Jesus?  Why do I forget so easily?

It would be so easy for my student to renounce God, settle her affairs and live the best life she can in the time she has left.  Steve could have locked his front door and hidden away from the world until the time he was taken Home. Yet, he did the exact opposite.  In his book, “Cancer Trip (1)”, Steve recalls the time he came home after the first surgery and decided to leave his door unlocked so friends could visit with him.  He lived life not simply for himself, but he trusted that God had his living and dying in His hands and he trusted.

He trusted God would do what He said He would.  And in the end, although Steve did not get a complete healing and more than eight years more on the planet, he was given a beautiful mile between earth and Heaven that spoke volumes about God’s goodness to him and to the world around him.

Steve surrendered, and so did my student.

So what is my problem?

The Art of Dying is the early recognition that our lives are NOT our own.  They are God’s, and we are given the miracle of life to experience, to thrive and to embrace fully.  A purpose-fulfilled life filled with passion, promise, hope and love.  Lots of love.

Love for one another, even those who don’t embrace our worldview or love of Jesus.

Love for a life that has greater meaning, no matter the length in months and years.

Love for Jesus, who defines the time we have so much greater than what we could given our own agendas and needs.

We let anger, disappointment, fear and sadness overtake us so that we forget His promises.  Your life is not your own, and you are also not expected to deal with your anger, disappointments, fears and sadness all by yourself either.  He is there, silently calling, inviting you into this space, but the echos of your past becomes a dissonance so loud that it drowns out His hope for you.

If anger is your cross, pick it up and follow Jesus.

If disappointment is your cross, pick it up and follow Jesus.

If fear and sadness is your cross, pick them up and follow Jesus.

If cancer or any other sickness is your cross, pick it up and follow Jesus.

When we take that beautiful mile from earth to Heaven, we will see only then how important it was to pick up our crosses and follow Jesus, even when our lives were in complete messes and disarray.

Remember, just because we love Jesus we are not promised a long life, just an amazing one.  May you start living this amazing life that God has in store for you NOW with no regrets and no complaining.

Pick up your cross and follow Jesus.  Live the life of purpose, passion and love He has for you.

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