Take Up Your Cross
I’ve heard people talk about a problem and say it’s a cross they must bear, but is this what Jesus meant?
Jesus meant something more profound than this when He told His disciples to carry their cross. He said to them, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23). In Jesus’ day, a cross wasn’t just a symbol of pain and suffering; it was mainly a symbol of death. Jesus told them they needed to put their plans and desires to death and then turn their lives over to Him and do His will daily.
Our struggle is against the snake. Our job with Christ is to face the snake, fight it, and conquer the fears and demons that bind us. We have unique challenges known only to ourselves. Our relenting false fears cover the real possibilities we could attain in doubt and self-deprecation. I am not good at this or that; I need to do something right. In his book, “Everything I ever really needed to know I learned in kindergarten,” Robert Fulghum posed that when we are young, we believe we can do everything and do it well. If the teacher asks, “who can sing, dance, or run,” everyone raises their hand in response. Then life gets in the way, and we shrink from opportunities that come with a substantial challenge. We place our faith in ourselves instead of God. Jesus looked at His disciples and said, “With man, this is impossible, but with God, all things are possible.” Matthew 19:26 Our fears, doubt, and self-reliance all began in the garden when the snake was set free.
I remember my first days at Sunny-side elementary school. I never raised my hand because I felt powerless to do anything. I was a defect, a bedwetter. Every night the nightmares came, and I had done nothing to bring the demon up from under my bed, but the devil always came. One inexplicable night as I ran from the monster, a voice called in the darkness, “Turn and face your fear.” I turned, and the demons I feared turned into a green field of tall grass. I had suffered this affliction for six years and was about to leave elementary school. The embarrassing scars of a soiled bed remained, and the stigma has kept me from possibilities. I was a lone wolf in High School; I avoided social engagement in school clubs and teams. I did settle into the unpopular’s, a group of similar scared kids. I pursued survival and became a piece of furniture in the room. I knew if I could hang on until graduation, I would be free to do anything and run in search of my happiness.
My pursuit of happiness always came full circle to defeat and bankruptcy. The world had a different outcome planned for me, and that is for another story. Then I looked back to the wake of my life and saw no fruit, just thorns. The snake had coiled around my soul and choked all the spirit’s life from me. I did not like what I saw. Like the Pilgrim, my journey needed the load lifted from this older man’s back. There is only one way out of the snake’s stranglehold, a rebirth and renewal of what God intended. As Jesus said to his disciples, “With man this is impossible, but with God, all things are possible” Matthew 19:26. My struggle was burdened because I had abandoned God and sought happiness in the things of this world. I forgot all things are possible with God.
I am forty years into the renewed journey with God in the driver’s seat. Plenty of thorns remain, but the fruits of the Spirit: Love, Joy, Goodness, Kindness, Self Control, and Longsuffering emerge within them. I will pause here to focus on the Longsuffering. Finding happiness did not happen. I sought it in every dark corner, in drugs and alcohol. I had no moderation. Only God’s love kept me from alcoholism or addiction. I never found happiness through contentment until God’s word in Philippians 4:11-13:
I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content, whatever the circumstances. 12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well-fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or want. 13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength.
My pursuit of happiness kept me from finding contentment in knowing God makes everything possible. I was to be an odd man out of joy, the first with no chair to sit on when the music stopped. This feeling of insecurity and fear was my cross to be carried. This worrisome life lasted until I remembered the voice that called in my nightmare, “Turn and face your fear.” Then it continued in my vision, “stop chasing happiness and seek me, your Creator; my yoke is light, and I will bring you contentment and peace.” Finding contentment has taken my lifetime, and I still find moments I would like more of some hollow, meaningless thing. These desires for more meaningless stuff quickly faded into the dark pit from where they came. My fear of facing demons and the challenges evil places on my path also disappears with God in my life. I have been free to do the impossible with God.
- Don’t Retire! Do this instead:
At seventy-three years old, my bones creak, and my flesh grows stiff. The aches and pains are relentless. But I choose not to retire from a working and productive life but instead chase all challenges that produce fruit.
We are building a new garage to house our nine-year-old recreational vehicle, Lucille, and a new studio to rekindle our love of art.
- We have given new life to grandma’s garden. Gardening is good for everything, mind, body, and soul. Gardening is even good for the aches and pains—go barefoot as grandma
taught us, and the minerals from the soil will flow into your skin and keep the creaks away.
- We have started planting an edible forest at the lake.
We have started a YouTube channel. YouTube may be the boldest thing to do at our age. Learning cinematography, editing on Final Cut Pro X and Pixelmator Pro, and using Apple Motion is a mountain to climb.
- I continue my writing struggle, trying to publish an article weekly on our website. Then make the essay a video.
- I remain committed to Photography for the art and the God meditation time I have as I chase beautiful images.
- We purchased a used RV we call Lucille to travel America in search of good stories to tell, beautiful places, and people.
I am a photographer. I love to go to a high view of the sunrise and sunset to make an image of the moment and meditate on Jesus. These are my easy moments to see and hear God. In my Longsuffering, I forgot God’s love and presence within my pain and suffering. Finding God in the dark hallways and dank basements of life is where I can find true healing. We can flourish on this soil when we overcome the demons by rising to be benevolent to our enemies and understand another’s afflictions. It is in the spiritual fruits of life we can find true contentment.
When George Washington fell to his knees at Valley Forge amid the frozen feet of his soldiers to call them to duty and honor, it opened the gate for a great nation. Washington’s despair was the catalyst to invite God in, and America resulted because, with God, all things are possible. It is up to the believers to take up our cross, believing all things possible with God, and lead America back to Him. Do all things with God and live an abundant life.
Your writing touches my soul. It is amazing how our paths though very different are very similar. At times the song “God Bless this Broken Road” has pushed me forward. You are so right that we must become content with what we are. Praise God for blessings seen and unseen,
You touched my heart again, Jim
It is good to be reminded that with God, all things are possible.
Even for a bed-wetter 😊