Photo by Kymme on Morgue File.
Take up your cross daily and follow me . . . (Lk. 9.23)
It’s a rainy, dreary Morning morning. I feel a Carpenter’s song coming on! It’s really not all that bad though. We have been needing rain in this part of the world and have gotten some good soakers over the weekend. People are fickle when it comes to the weather. They seem to prefer their weather be like a measurement of salt in a baking recipe: just a dash. They want it to rain, because we need it, but then it rains for half-a-day or so and they are ready for it to stop. They want nice, warm summer weather, but then the heat sets in for a few days and they are ready for fall.
Fickleness seems to be a plight of the human condition. My daughters can be fickle at times. They are sure they want the apple sitting in the fridge, but when they have it in hand and have taken a couple of bites, they decide they want the grapes instead!
But what about the apple?
Oh, we can just throw it away.
But apples don’t grow on . . . oh wait, never mind!
Whether it is a bit of food or some toy, they are soon distracted from it and allured by the enchantments of the next best thing.
We see the same pattern in the life of discipleship. And no, I don’t just mean in everyone else’s faith-walk, I mean mine! And yours!
We are too easily distracted. We are too easily swayed by feelings, emotions and comforts. Nothing wrong with those things, but they have a way of taking pride of place in our hearts and lives and leading us down the well-worn path of indifference, apathy and lethargy.
That whole, take up your cross daily thing becomes something best left either to tomorrow or to the super-Christian types.
That whole Great Commission directive becomes the contract for professional, well-trained missionary types.
That list of Beatitudes becomes some pie-in-the-sky, only in Glory-land idealism that just doesn’t fit in this world.
Pretty soon we have a buffet mentality when it comes to discipleship.
I’ll try some of this, but I think I’ll leave that.
I’ll have some of this today and I’ll leave that for next time.
What we end up with is a stripped-down version of Christianity. A Christianity that is more institutional than revolutional. One that is more confounded than confirmed. One that has a name, but lacks the power.
Of course, it must be admitted discipleship is hard. There are no two ways about that. Pastorally speaking, we must endeavor to remain steadfast in our commitment and calling; so that, we can lead others to do the same.
There are times to be an explorer and there are times to be guides.
Explorers are fellow adventurers, rustling through the new frontier along with everyone in their train. They are discovering and searching, mapping the territory as they go. They too are in uncharted lands: unknown to others and to them.
Exploration is part of the calling, but their are times when we must lead down paths that are well-worn by the footfalls of our own steps. Paths we have mapped out beforehand. Brush we have cleared. Signposts we have constructed. Paths that bare our presence and which bare their presence on us.
Frost’s lone traveler soon learned what was ahead, just around the bend in the forest. But, he had to travel that road to find the answer. Not all forks are lost to us. Some we return to later. Some we face again alone, but many times, in God’s providence and grace, we find others weary and confused who need a guiding hand.
Our guidance must be directed by the Holy Spirit, lest we lead them off the cliff!
But all this only comes with well-worn shoes: old and ragged from miles upon miles of following close behind the Master, with aching shoulders from the weight of rugged, clumsy crosses.
Crosses don’t stand for fickleness. They demand utter devotion and commitment. If you would climb Everest, you must be sold out to the endeavor. If you are to swim the English Channel, you must have a driving determination. If you would be the first person in space, you must have the daring resolve to see it through. Well then, what do you think it takes to follow closely behind in the footsteps of the Eternal Son incarnated in flesh?!
Crosses have a tendency to like hills. They have a rather annoying habit of preferring long, winding, arduous paths. They seem to take some small delight in being shifty, unruly and imbalanced.
They are known to have a fair bit of bark, and an even more tenacious bite!
Fickleness cannot withstand the load. It cannot even take the first step.
No doubt about it, as the old adage goes, some days your the windshield and some days your the bug! Well, some days the cross beats you to a pulp. It grinds into your bones and its splinters pierce deep into your heart. It makes a mockery of your dedication. It taunts your resolve and commitment. It jeers at your desire. It batters and batters and batters.
But, there are those days, by God’s grace, that the load is managed. The cross is carried. Maybe only a few feet. Maybe only a few steps. But it is carried all the same.
No, there is never any sense of real victory when a cross is flung across your back. There is never a sense of relief as it bares down on your calloused shoulders. But, Christ has promised rest and help in carrying the burden. There is that ever elusive and maddening paradox that lies between the ruggedness of the cross and the gentle, soul-nourishing rest that Christ gives.
And yet, the weight remains. After all, a cross isn’t much of a cross if it isn’t painful and hard. But the grace of Christ endures. And it, as Paul testifies, is sufficient.
Fickleness leads to defeat, but perseverance is a sure sign of a person born by the Spirit from above!