“Then Jesus told his disciples, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whosover loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul? For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done.'” Matthew 16:24-27 (ESV)
I confess. I am somewhat of a control freak. Not in the overbearing sense where I barge in and demand everything be done my way, but in a more subtle way. For instance, if I am working on a group project where we have to design something, I may suggest an idea, hijack the project, and do most of the work in order for it to be done “right.” Everybody gets credit, everybody gets happy, and Sarah gets her satisfaction. Of course, my controlling tendencies are not limited to my academic work, this flawed strength also seeps into my personal life, too.
When my hopes, dreams, and desires are placed on the table of life, I’m more than longing for ultimate control, I’m like a spoiled child demanding her own selfish way. As I reach the beginning of the end of my college career, there are a lot of things that I want. I want to be given acceptance to Graduate School/Program X and I want to study/teach subjects X and X, and within an X amount of years, I will have a Ph.D. in English. I would also prefer no detours, distractions, or real life to impose itself upon me. After completing my graduate studies, Iwill marry the manifestation of literary brilliance, have X amount of children, teach riveting classes in regards to Medieval literature, and then I will become a stay-at-home mother, tending to my bright children, who have a knack for reading Medieval literature (just like their mother). I’ll also write about six books, most of which will be required reading for the universe.
If you couldn’t already tell, I like to plan well in advance and I challenge the poor soul that dares to get in my way. Also, I’m not very flexible in altering my plans, as I enjoy a steady life. However, the Gospel of Jesus Christ challenges all of these rigid tendencies that have been ingrained into my sinful being. I want all the things to benefit myself, leaving little room for Christ to work in my life. Of course, the Lord does not need me to fulfill His purposes, but by His grace, He desires that I “take up my cross” and follow Him.Indeed, as a person with the demands of a thoughtless child, taking up my cross is by far the hardest task I will ever undertake. I want what I want, on my terms, on my timeline, and most importantly, when I ask for it.
Please consider this brief detour: During my sophomore year of college, I took a class in which my grade was teetering between an “A” and “A/B” on my college’s grading scale. At finals, I pleaded with God to help me get an “A” in the class (this is what nerds pray about). I needed that grade to feel good about myself as a student, so when I walked out of the final feeling as if I had been plowed over by a semi truck, I simply asked God where He was when I was taking the test. I was a tad angry that God didn’t send the professor a vision in order make the test to my liking. However, upon receiving my final score, my participation and hard-earned extra credit points pulled me over the edge into Grade A Land and I felt ashamed. It a moment of humored awkwardness, it was as if God was telling me that He simply works how He wants, and this case, it was through a hard test and extra credit.
If you’re still with me, what does this have to do with “taking up my cross?” Simple: Taking up my cross often requires me to stop demanding from God what I want when I want it, and be willing to work on His terms. In reality, I may end up in places unknown, teaching in unknown places with unknown people after I graduate. On the other hand, I may get what I want, much like in the “I want an ‘A’ real bad” story above. God works in mysterious ways, and quite frankly, that’s something my feeble mind is still attempting to grasp.
In the end though, it’s all about surrendering the dream(s) to Christ. The dreams we create may return to us in the forms we desire, or they may be morphed by God into something that we least expect. However, what truly matters is that when we kill our selfish desires, and surrender all we have ever wanted to the Lordship of Christ, we will ultimately find with overwhelming joy what we believed to be lost.
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