“Then [Jesus] called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.’” (Mark 8:34)
Jesus, what does it mean to “take up my cross and follow you?” Is it perhaps…living our lives as human beings, fully accepting our humanity and submitting ourselves fully to God–whatever he may have for us? Isn’t this what you did? You had an earth-bound, human life, and you didn’t try to escape it. In prayer, you found what you needed, one day at a time. Did you come to rely on this intimate conversation with your Father as an essential lifeline? I have been wondering about these things and about the role of prayer in your life….
Do we, perhaps, forget your human frailty? Do we too easily make light of your life as a man? You came into our world as a baby. You grew up and faced the hardships little boys and young men face. You were tempted in every way that we are tempted (Heb 4:15). Surely, you experienced the evils that war against our souls.
Jesus, do we overlook your time of learning and growing in maturity? When you were twelve, you were compelled to stay in the temple in Jerusalem, drawn by God’s presence there, even though your parents had left town. Did you lose track of time? You were maturing and being prepared for the things God had for you. Luke writes that you “grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.” (Luke 2:52) How did you learn how to live? You tell us to deny ourselves and follow you. Did you learn these things by spending time with your Father God?
Did you find your true identity revealed to you in times of prayer? You grew up, and, little by little, God’s call on your life was realized. Through the study of the scriptures (including the words of the prophet Isaiah in chapters 53 and 61) and through prayer, God gave you direction for the next steps. We see in Luke’s gospel that “When all the people were being baptized, [you were] baptized too. And as [you were] praying, heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended on [you] in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: ‘You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.’” (Luke 3:21-22) As you prayed, God spoke words of affirmation and expressed his delight in you!
“Delight” is what sparked my thoughts and questions here as I thought about my dad’s comments on my blog post from 2008:
“I am moved deeply by this my daughter’s post . . . . and I don’t know why, but it makes me think of the day when she went along with me to New Jersey, from Brooklyn, probably at age, 4. I do not remember why we were going to New Jersey . . . some errand or appointment, and I just thought, why not take dear Suz. And so we sang as we went . . . Susan sang, and sang and sang. I do not know how long she sang, but she was so happy, so exuberant, so happy and such a delight to her father. What joy we had that day!”
I remember countless times as a little girl when I would sing and sing and sing to you and God – I am certain that it was my form of prayer. And, as the psalmist writes, the Father delights in these times with us as well:
“Let them praise his name with dancing
and make music to him with timbrel and harp.
For the LORD takes delight in his people;
he crowns the humble with victory.
Let his faithful people rejoice in this honor
and sing for joy on their beds.”
You didn’t give us details about the crosses we are to take up, but then, the path for your life was a gradual unfolding as well. It was revealed to you through intimate, relational, one-on-one time with God. How am I to take up my cross and follow you? I think, like you, I am meant to inhabit my earth-bound, human frame with grace and dignity. And, like you, I am made for joyful, delightful communion with my Father God. Perhaps, this is what it means to carry one’s cross and follow you, to live in this tension.