“Pick it up!”
The impossible command came with a deafening thud. A heavy beam landed dangerously near Jesus’ head. There he lay, empty of all strength. Hardly holding on to life. Bleeding from his head, his face, his back. No part of his body had escaped the whip and he lay near death at the feet of a compassionless soldier.
“Pick up your cross,” the hateful man hissed.
Jesus looked up. The agony of his flesh was excruciating. The cross seemed much more than he could bear, but still, he was expected to carry it up to Golgotha.
Oh Father, I do not have the strength. I cannot possibly go on.
But his destiny was there. The fulfillment of his purpose. The salvation of mankind was at the top of Golgotha. And humanity’s nearly dead savior was at the bottom.
Give … me … strength.
Jesus felt it. He felt the mighty hand of God lift him to his knees. His body shook with the exertion. His muscles straining to meet the command of his legs to walk. He stumbled, fell. Panting, Jesus lifted himself up a second time, again praying for strength. The cross would hardly budge.
Gritting his teeth, Jesus forced his muscles to contract. He lifted the cross, struggling under its’ weight. Then, as he straightened himself under it, he began to feel a herculean strength surround his limbs and lift the cross. He had been met in his weakness.
Further down the road, Jesus stumbled. The cross was wearing on him. Breaking him down. His blood had left a crimson trail behind him and with it, his life leaked out. He was dying with each step. Finally, he could not go on. Seeing his distress, a man met him on his knees and pulled him to his feet again. Wrapping his arm around the crossbeam, the man lifted Jesus with the other and together, they stumbled the rest of the way to the crest of the hill. At last, Calvary.
I’ve never really been this confronted on the issue until now. Taking up my cross never sounded so bad when I thought of the command in the context of the daily irritation that constitute daily living. I mean, it’s never easy, but with a little help, it’s doable.
But recently, I have been broken. Really broken. Hurting and weak, emotionally drained. Freaking out inside. And suddenly, the command to take up my cross, to die to self, seems both inevitable and impossible. I’m at a place where already, I feel like I’m dying. I can’t take any more. I cry out every day, “God, I’m drowning here. I can’t breathe. Suffocating.” And He has spoken, “Now take it up.”
That’s not my natural tendency in this place. This is where every ounce of self-preservation compels me to fight to live. To fight to breathe. To claw my way up to the surface and survive at all cost.
But God has not given me the freedom to follow my own natural inclinations. He has asked me to do the one thing that is contrary to all logic. He has asked me to die. To die to my self. To take up my cross and allow all my natural self to be nailed there. To surrender my will to survive and to trust Him through the death of my flesh and my desires. The death of my understanding. The death of my happiness. The death of my dreams. The death of all that is in me that defines me.
He has promised strength. I just have to admit my weakness. He will lift me up, I just have to lay down at His feet. He has promised abundant life, I just have to die first.