Today’s Bible reading

If anyone would come after me, let them deny themself and take up their cross and follow me. — Mark 8:34

More thoughts for meditation

People can be disappointing and our prayers don’t always get answered. Add to that the friend from cell you have been praying for who really wants to come but cannot seem to allocate the time? Or the coworker who is always getting their part of an assignment in right before it’s due? The family member who just doesn’t seem to be paying attention to our needs?

The reality is you (and I writing) could just as easily be added to this list of disappointments. And the problem isn’t that we aren’t asking God for miracles. We do that plenty. The problem can often be the moment God asks us for something. It’s easy to rub a lamp, make a wish, and remove ourselves from the process–but God is incarnational. And if we are to be counted among the faithful, we must be incarnations, too. So when we ask God to change the heart of our cell-mate, so that we can see them more and get to know them, we must expect God is asking something of us in the process.

Jesus is calling us to follow him. What does that look like? Throughout the Gospels the authors often recount Jesus offering this call: “If anyone would come after me, let them deny themself and take up their cross and follow me” (Mark 8:34; see also Mat. 10:38, 16:24, Lk. 9:23, 14:27). In your request, what could it look like to “carry your cross” while you petition the Lord?

What does carrying the cross even mean, anyway? Well, Jesus, in a garden at the time of his greatest trial shows us. Before he actually bore the cross on his back, he bore it in his soul. He petitioned God to “take this cup from me,” essentially, to make a way for him not to be crucified. The second part of his prayer in Luke 22:42 is the expressed self-giving love that is bearing one’s cross: “yet not my will, but yours be done.” Jesus makes his desire known, and begs for it even, but is ultimately wooed by God’s love, God’s wisdom and power.  Jesus was the focus of God’s strategy for ushering in the new creation and Jesus was willing to do whatever it was that entailed. A tough pill to swallow, to say the least, but God is good! It is the culture that demanded his blood in the first place. Ever since Genesis, God has been on mission to restore the creation and he invites us into that work.

When we dream about community and intimacy, about justice and transformation, about the peace and joy of Christ’s Kingdom the buzzing of the alarm clocks of our society prompts us to bitterly and repeatedly hit the snooze button. But we hardly enter the same dream again. Waking up and being confronted with the individualism and racism and brokenness and resentment can be exhausting. This life, however, that Jesus calls us into is one that is awake. And we cannot actually live with eyes wide open if we are constantly dwelling in that which is the antithesis to what we are living for and towards. To live this life, fully alive, as Jesus intends (John 10:10), we need to trust him. To follow him and receive what he has for us by the Spirit of God–daily, and truly, moment by moment.

Walking with Jesus and carrying our crosses means that, yes, we look directly into our deepest fears, and maybe we die because of them (have you seen Bird Box?) but the promise of God is that if this death comes with the Spirit of Christ, you will live (Rom.8:13). The power of Christ is most notably seen in his ability to die and then rise. But notice that he actually dies so that he can actually rise. So, too, in our lives we need to be ready to do the same: encountering the things that want to make us crawl in bed and die; but instead of withdrawing, leaning on the grace found in Christ’s presence with us so that even though we die, we might subsequently rise.

Suggestions for action

Who are two or three people you need to connect with? Maybe you feel like they’ve disappointed you recently, or you’ve disappointed them. Take a moment and ask that question to “God with you,” Emmanuel: “Who are you calling me to call?” Then follow Jesus and be willing to be disappointed one more time. Who knows? You might even experience mini-resurrections for all of the dying you do.

Today is Fanny J. Crosby Day! Visit this notable spiritual ancestor at Celebrating Our Transhistorical Body.