A friend recently asked me what I thought Jesus meant when he said to take up your cross. What does that look like in our daily life? Or, more to the point, how in the world do you really do it, when your day-to-day life is excruciatingly difficult, is what I think she was really asking.
Here’s what Jesus said in Luke 9:23:
“Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.”
And here’s how his words are translated in The Message:
“Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. Don’t run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I’ll show you how. Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to finding yourself, your true self.”
So, best as I can tell, this is what this means.
It means that Jesus comes first. Before what I want. Before what I think I need. Before what comes out of my mouth. Before my comfort level.
It means I surrender my day and heart and life to him, every day, sometimes a bunch of times a day.
It means I sacrifice for others with my time, in my thoughts, by withholding unkind words, by praying when the last thing I want to do is pray.
It means doing what I can do to make a situation better and then handing the rest over to Jesus, begging him to do his part.
It means doing the hard thing when the easy thing looks so much better.
It means quieting down, in word and deed, so that Jesus can really move and transform and fill up the spaces that are dark and heavy and sad.
It means getting out of the way and letting God be God and remembering, gratefully, that I am not.
L.L. Barkat prays, “Beloved God, you opened yourself to the world in Creation and at the Cross. I sense your great tenderness and beckoning. Sweet One, what can I do for you?”
So it means remembering that Christ took up his cross for me…he willingly walked the hardest of roads with me in mind…and he laid himself down for me literally. So in return, I can learn to lay myself down for him, as a gift.