Do you even lift? That question is often thrown toward those of us who don't have the strongest looking physiques. Usually the question is coming from someone who looks like Charles Atlas. For you youngins' you'll have to 'google' Charles Atlas. The sentiment is that a wide strength chasm exists between those who lift and look fabulous and those of us who don't lift and look....well, scrawny. I'm fine with scrawny; how about you?
In a couple weeks on Good Friday, we'll gather at Sacred Heart Church here in Lewistown to participate in the annual Cross Walk. The faith community comes together to carry the cross around town, sing hymns, pray for specific churches, organizations, and service groups. The secondary effect that occurs is the witness to the greater public. Traffic flows through the streets and we try to not impede automobiles moving along. Courtesy between walkers and drivers is usually mutual.
Back to the cross. It is heavy and while it can be dragged, it is usually carried by two folks. The reenactment reminds us of the great burden Jesus endured as he walked toward Golgotha. The weight of the cross is tough for healthy individuals to bear. It must have been near impossible for a beaten, bruised, and weakened Jesus to endure.
While the Cross Walk is good for us to take part in and experience, I think Jesus had something else in mind other than carrying an actual cross. The following scripture is asking us to set aside anything that would impede our disciple walk.
"Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it." (Matthew 16:24-25, NIV)
Believe me when I say that there are many distractions that lead us away from being an effective disciple for Jesus. Our humanness drives us to avoid conflict and anything that would cause discomfort. We want to place ourselves first before we consider placing another person ahead of us. In ministry with Jesus, that self-preservation model probably won't work.
To deny myself, is to empty me of personal wants, needs, desires, and selfish agendas. It means I'll have to offer my life to Jesus without reservation or condition. It means I'll need to bow to the Lordship of Jesus and obey even when His directive sounds absolutely ridiculous.
The questions I must answer then are these, "What things, practices, or agendas will I need to jettison in order to fully follow Jesus?" What 'important' areas will I need to let go of in order that I can grasp Jesus who is 'thee' most important thing in my life?
This denying stuff ain't easy. There are so many attachments that seem glamorous yet pale in comparison to all that Jesus offers us. The weight of the decision to deny these attachments is too much to bear some days. It feels as though Jesus has placed three crosses on each shoulder. Then we remember that he also said, "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30, NIV).
Let's follow Jesus no matter how heavy the cross may seem. We choose to bear this burden for the One who bore the death cross for us. It is supposed to be heavy. The rewards won't result in a ripped body, but a restored soul that will live in God's presence eternal!y. If ever asked, "Do you even lift?" simply hold up a small cross and say, "Yes, yes I do!"