Thursday, April 2, 2015

Thoughtful About . . . Taking Up Our Cross

Then Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “One thing you lack: Go your way, sell whatever you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, take up the cross, and follow Me.” ~ Mark 10:21

This week, I tend to look long and hard at those verses that tell us to take up the cross. This week, it stops being metaphorical and has a gruesome, beautiful, REAL quality to it. This week, I've been giving some unexpected thought to this verse.

As everyone probably recalls, this verse is from the the account of the rich young ruler who approached Jesus to ask how he, who has always obeyed the Law, can have eternal life. I never would have considered it a controversial verse...but I think it probably is. Because Jesus, in his love for the young man, tells him to give up everything. To give it all away to those in need. To take up the cross--to embrace suffering, punishment, trials, pain--and follow Jesus.

I'm sure you've heard sermons on this verse. I'm sure you've talked about it in studies. I know I have. We've talked about how Jesus was identifying the thing that the young man held as an idol--his wealth--and telling him to put it far from him. To actually obey the Law that says to put nothing before God, instead of just claiming to. We've talked about how Jesus certainly isn't telling everyone in the world to sell all their earthly possessions.

Which is true. He isn't. He would only have to tell us that if we valued our earthly possessions above our heavenly ones. But last year, when we talked about this in Sabbath School, I went home asking myself, "What would I do if Jesus did ask me to give it all up? My house? My cars? My books? My comfortable life. Could I?"
My prized possessions--not the couch. The BOOKS.

We're all quick to say, "Of course!" But I wasn't going to accept a trite answer from myself, because I know myself too well, LOL. As I examined my heart, I really wasn't sure. I wasn't sure I could walk away from it all if He asked--but I knew that wasn't how I wanted my heart to be. So I asked Him, that day, to change my heart.

There were no epiphanies in the following months. No tests. No...anything. But when I asked myself the question again about a month ago, I realized that there was no hesitation any longer. I quite simply no longer loved the idea of a comfortable house, a comfortable life, as much as I loved the idea of doing absolutely whatever God asks me to do. If He asks me to give it up, I will.

It's a strange idea to people today though, isn't it? We are, above all, a society that craves security. We want to know that our job will be there. That there will be a paycheck every week. That our insurance will cover our bills. That the car will start up every morning. That we'll have a nest egg to retire on. But I realized yesterday that for most of my adult life, I haven't had those things. As a freelance writer, editor, and designer, I frankly never know if or when or how the next contract will come. My hubby works for a family business in an industry incredibly unstable. I had no insurance until a couple years ago...and my premiums, thanks to the so-called Affordable Health Care Act, just doubled.

Last night, I was talking to my parents, and they mentioned how if it came down to it, my husband could get a great job. Good pay, benefits. Security.

And I realized...I don't want it. I don't want to be tied to "security." I don't want to give up my dreams--and worse, give up my ability to say, "Yes, Lord! Here I am!" because I'm too afraid to give up my things. I don't want to turn into the rich young ruler.

Security, while something we all crave, is an illusion. Things could change at any time. The rain falls on the just and the unjust alike. Fortunes disappear. Economies fail. Businesses go bankrupt. Our only security in this world is Him. In the sure knowledge that He can make less enough.

Our only security is knowing that we will suffer. We will know pain. Heartache. Loss. Persecution. (Death and taxes, as the old saying goes.) Those are sure. Guaranteed.

Our security is knowing that when those times come, we have a Savior who has suffered more, and who understands. Who lost it all, but did it anyway. Who had no place to rest his head, but all the grandeur of heaven. Who had no insurance, but who could heal through the power of the Spirit.

Our security is Him. Not the things of this world. The things of this world are what made men shout, "Crucify Him!" and nail his hands to a cross.

I nail those things to the cross instead. I say that all I am, all I have, is His. 

I will obey your call, Lord. I will take up the cross. Right now, I know that means obeying the call you put on me to homeschool, to write, edit, design, and serve my church. But I know that tomorrow, that call could change. If it does, I pray I won't hesitate over things. I pray I will follow you out onto the water. To the mouth of the cave. Into the mob. And to the cross.

Thank you, Jesus, for your sacrifice. I've spent years trying to fully understand it, and I daresay I'll spend many years more doing the same. Because the more I see, the more I realize it's so far beyond all I can comprehend. But I thank you for it. I praise you for it. And I will work diligently to keep my heart open to it, rather than cluttered up with the things of this world.

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