Pick up your cross!

I remember sitting in the squad car that night. We were sitting at the light on corner of Tuttle Park and Lane Ave. The car was full of other officers and we were on our way to provide security for an OSU Basketball game. I sat there in the car listening to the other officers insult and harass each other, I hated it. A pretty girl walked by and the comments about her started flying. I hated the way we talked and I hated the way that we were living. In hindsight, I wish I would have said something. Anything.

That was the day that I told God he could have my life. That was the day I decided to give up on running from him and solely live for him. Don’t get me wrong I had been a Christian for years before that night, however, I was a Christian in as much as God fit into my plans. When God fit, then heck yes, I would follow him! However, those inevitable days in which my plan and God’s plan did not mesh, I found myself claiming Christ but refusing to follow him. I was what they called a fair-weather fan, or rather, a fair-weather Christian. Being from North East Ohio I know a lot about fair-weather fandom.

It is funny, I have terrible memory. I have a photographic memory that lasts for maybe a day to two days. After that I honestly cannot remember anything. It is almost like I have a High Definition recorder but limited storage. So, it is funny that I can remember this day so vividly. Often, I find myself reflecting back onto that day and remembering my conviction to do all I can to follow to the ends of the earth. It never seems to fail that in the times which I am running the opposite direction from God, he gently reminds me of that night. It flickers across my mind like a flame dancing in the breeze.

So when I felt that tug on my heart to start attending Seminary, I took it. Plus, for one of the rare times it seemed that God’s calling on my life to attend Seminary matched up perfectly with my plans for my life. It was an incredibly easy call to make. See I could take some classes online from where I was living in Columbus Ohio. This way I could continue to lead Young Life, work my job, live with my friends and date my girlfriend. This made sense to me, it made sense that God wanted me to be happy and wanted me to have what I wanted, which was what I had.

I often wish that following God was that easy; “go wherever is most comfortable and stay there!”. I never want to admit it, but in all honesty, that is what I want this whole serving God thing to really be. *Spoiler Alert* It’s not. Apparently following God is more about following him in all circumstances rather than simply the pleasant ones. The summer before seminary was one of those times. I had lost my job, my girlfriend dumped me and my roommate left for North Carolina to pursue what God had called him to. It felt like everything had been torn away from me. I felt lonely and stupid. So, I packed everything I owned into my Chevy Cobalt and drove to Chicago IL, to attend seminary full time. My mission was simple, “follow God”. I felt like God had taken all away so I could simply know him deeper, and follow him. It made sense, kinda.

The problem is that even when you are following God, difficulties will come flying at you out of the woodwork. Seminary cost a fortune, I was lonely all the time and I felt so out of place. I had always thought that when I am following God that stuff isn’t supposed to happen, right? I mean I am doing YOUR will. Isn’t that like a free pass on pain?

As I read this post, I chuckled to myself. I wrote this in an email to an old friend from that time and I think it fits in perfectly here. ” It’s weird, when I moved out here I was begging God that he be here. For the last 6 months it’s been hit and miss. I honestly feel like he was no more here than in Columbus. That this decision to come to Chicago was no more God’s call than it was for me to stay put. I have begun to learn that is largely based on my interpretation of what it would look like for God to be here. In my mind, I catch myself thinking that if God was truly calling me here, then my life would be overflowing with Joy and peace. Following God is never as easy as we think it will be, ya know? I guess that is why he said “Pick up your Cross!”, and not “Hop into that brand new Lexus”! and follow me.” I always found it weird that he said “pick up your cross”. I don’t want to carry a cross those things are heavy. I want to pick up my bag of money, drive in my fancy car or walk casually with my super hot wife, but picking up the cross?!?! That seems difficult. Largely because it is difficult.

The more and more I read through scripture, the less and less I find people who did not suffer when they followed Christ. Paul being beaten and jailed and then eventually martyred for his faith. Stephen, stoned to death for proclaiming truth. John the Baptist, Peter, James or any of the other martyrs for the faith. It seems much more reasonable that following Christ is not easy. Maybe that is why the road to destruction is wide. So why then would we as reasonable people ever choose this lifestyle? Because is there anything else to choose?!?! I think Peter said it best in John 6:66-68:

“From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.
67 “You do not want to leave too, do you?” Jesus asked the Twelve.
68 Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. 69 We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.””

And there it is. So plainly written and understood yet, so difficult to follow. “Where would we go?”

May Christ receive the Glory.

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