If I’m honest, I really don’t like the cross. I dread it, fear its demand for all. My heart runs from its command to come and die, its insistence on brutal honesty as I look at myself and the world, its reach into every place – identity, relationships, bank accounts.
I hate it because it hurts, and who really enjoys pain? Though I don’t usually dare to say it so bluntly, sometimes I wish there was a way to truly follow Jesus that didn’t require me to be crucified into him. Don’t you?
Take a deep breath. It’s okay. We don’t have to like it. Even the Son of God dreaded the cross.
“Abba, Father,” he cried out, “everything is possible for you. Please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.” (Mark 14:36, New Living Translation)
But there’s another side too, and if I’m really honest, these days I also love the cross more than ever. I love it because of its declaration. “You are loved beyond comprehension, loved enough that I walked straight into what I dreaded so I could have you.”
I love it because it forces the freeing truth, releasing me from the weight of impossible demands. “You can’t do this for yourself. Stop trying so hard and let me do in you what only I can do.”
I love it because I’ve tasted a drop of the joy that lies beyond. It calls me to die not to leave me dead but to set me free to truly live. In Him. The only place we can ever really live. And it is this joy, this relationship, that makes the pain of death worth it.
Let us keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, who leads us in our faith and brings it to perfection: for the sake of the joy which lay ahead of him, he endured the cross, disregarding the shame of it, and has taken his seat at the right of God’s throne. (Hebrews 12:2, New Jerusalem Bible)
“I-Thou may be a perilous word, the dyings of two into one another, one emptying himself to be found in the world, the other one necessarily emptied in order to find the whole world in the first; but I-Thou is union indeed.” (Wangerin, The Orphean Passages, p. 5-6)
And I love the cross too because of its power to do what it promises. Even in areas that are impossible for me to let go, when I’m honest with God about my fear, my inability to change, and give God permission to touch those areas, he works until their hold on me is broken. Sometimes I can’t even make myself willing to let Him touch something. That’s okay too. I’m learning that even being willing to be made willing is enough. The power of this cruciform truth, in all its fearful beauty, is beyond imagining.
For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. (I Corinthians 1:18, New International Version)