carrying my cross: rejecting self-help to embrace self-sacrifice

I am in the midst of carrying my cross, and I am embarrassed about it. I want my eyes fixed on Jesus’ feet: His toes caked with dirt, leather straps stretched across his insteps, blood dripping from his head and down his face and hitting the crusted ground. And I am not doing my part, I’ve decided. For I am on Jesus’ back, underneath my cross, which is on top of Jesus’ back. And he takes one labored, tortured step and then another. Stumbling and holding the cross–His cross and my own–and getting up again, always moving forward, forward, forward.

I close my eyes. This is a nightmare. But it isn’t. It is absolutely real. I am on my back, weak and immobile, and unable to help in any way. My clothes are ragged and torn. My hair is matted in clumps. My face is streaked with dirt and tears. And I am ashamed of my embarrassment–for I am confused now. Am I embarrassed because I want, truly, to be carrying my own cross? Or am I embarrassed because I can’t and people will see my weakness? 

Oh, there you are again, Strength. And Pride. You want to save yourself, Jennifer, don’t you? You want to be your own Savior, yes? You say you love Jesus but yet you detest that He is the one doing the saving? You want to be the one to get glory and fame? 

But this isn’t true, I decide. These are thoughts of self-contempt, and I give them to Jesus, asking him to decipher my confusion for me. I can’t manage it alone. For I am bewildered by this scene. What is happening? How are You carrying me? And why do I not want to be carried? What is this tension I feel within?

And then I am off His back, struggling next to Him, attempting to budge my own cross that is stuck in the dirt near His feet. My knees threaten to buckle beneath me, the weight too great. But then I stumble forward and don’t fall; I manage to take a step. I am confused until, with astonishment, I realize what is happening: my cross is angled so it rests on top of Jesus’ cross. 

I walk forward because He carries my own cross too.

Every few moments Jesus pauses, the burden pressing heavily on his shoulders, his head, his back. And in the middle of one of these pauses, He looks at me, eyes so deep and kind, and tells me to lift my head. What?!

Somehow, I manage to look around me, behind me. It is like the camera has pulled back and I have a bird’s eye view of the whole scene: the streets of Jerusalem and hundreds, no, thousands–no, countless people (angels?) glowing white, carrying crosses. There are people filling the streets of Jerusalem, each trudging upward. 

The camera pulls back some more.

The people are walking not just through Jerusalem. They are walking through towns and through cities, through walkways and through corridors of homes. Here, everywhere, steadfast and determined, people are walking. Onward, onward, and up up, to their own Golgatha, the place where they will plunge their own crosses into the ground.

How many times did Jesus tell the disciples to take up their crosses? To give up the things of this world that hold them back from the complete surrender of mind, body, and heart to the worshipping of God? 

What are you showing me, Jesus? What does this mean?

And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.

Luke 9: 23-24,ESV

Then Jesus went to work on his disciples. “Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat; I am. 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. What kind of deal is it to get everything you want but lose yourself? What could you ever trade your soul for?

Matthew 16:24-26, MSG

What Jesus shows me is beautiful. And He is beautiful. And together, the saints join together, having picked up their crosses. 

And there will be a day–and it may not be long now–that we are the ones in glowing white–our clothes no longer ragged and torn, our skin no longer dirty and scraped–when we revel in worship for the King who carried his own cross and who leads us the way to surrender–all the while making it possible for us to carry our own crosses too.

Let us reject self-help. Let us embrace self-sacrifice. Let us surrender to love. Let us be blessed by Your leading, Jesus. 

Friend, what do you see in this scene? Are you letting Jesus carry you? What does it mean for you to let yourself be crucified? What needs to be taken to the cross? Pride? Self-worship? Envy? Bitterness? Malice? Distrust? Hard-heartedness? What is He asking to help you with? What does He have to show you as He walks with you, your burden His own?

Will you spend a few minutes imagining this scene? Sanctify your imagination to Him now. 

And, if you feel like He is leading you to process your experience, will you write out your thoughts? Will you consider sharing them with us, in the safe community of Loop Poetry Project, as a poem? Join us right here.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Praying now, as I join you up this hill,

Jennifer

This post appeared originally at jenniferjcamp.com

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