Then he 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

In Bible study this week we read and discussed The Way of The Cross found in Mark 8:34-38. We were asked hard questions. How it should look when we take up our Cross and follow Jesus. Are we willing to deny self? What are the things that hold us back from this calling? What does this look like for today’s church?

There is a cross in our backyard. A rough-hewn, rugged cross hammered and nailed together by a precious man child for his Nanna. Every morning I stumble past the coffee pot and the soothing smell of the promised cup to come, open my door and gaze out at this cross.

Many thoughts s-l-o-w-l-y dance across my mind as I stand there looking, savoring and appreciating early dawn and all the sounds of the awakening of God’s morning, filled with new mercies just for me.

It’s the place where I say my first good morning to the Lord, and ponder the sacrifice He made for me.

It’s where I remember this precious, small child hammering away with sweat dripping into his eyes as he builds the most perfect gift just for me. I ponder my “1000 Gift List” and how this symbol of love and sacrifice was listed there on those pages time and time again. How our beloved toy pomeranian had the perfect final resting place.

I think of the good things. Salvation. Forgiveness. Eternal life. A gift from my grandson. What a backdrop of a view this cross has and how it brings joy to my heart every single time my eyes fall upon it.

But do I think of the words Jesus said in Mark? Sadly, no. Do I look out at and realize that as a disciple of Christ, I’m to literally and figuratively hoist it up on my back. To deny myself and all of my selfish wants. Tough thoughts to chew on this morning and they are chasing through my mind as a child chases a butterfly.

Hmmm…

Have I taken up that cross, carried it on my back and denied self? I’m ashamed to say no.

Yes, I live my life in The Word. I’m passionate about The God who graced me with mercy and love and compassion and forgiveness. Who gives me a hope and a future. I’m passionate when I share of His faithfulness in my life.

But to actually carry the Cross…no.

As I was listening to the discussion yesterday, I was convicted of the work I need to do in my own life.

In Lisa Bever’s book Girls With Swords she asks this question…”How do we fulfill this highly personalized directive? There are there elements in this instruction: deny yourself, lift the cross, and follow Jesus. The cross is far from an ornament to wear; it is an order to carry out. Jesus carried God with him every day, everywhere he went, and he is asking you to do the same.”

No. Matter. The. Cost.

We carry this precious Message around in the unadorned clay pots of our ordinary lives. 2Corinthians 4:7 MSG

God has blessed me with a front row, center stage seat to such beauty and preciousness this scripture describes. I am watching someone very dear and close to me, in their very ordinary life take up His Cross. I’ve been close enough to see the blessings be poured down on them and I’ve been blessed to watch as they stand in the trenches with complete selflessness, where it is dirty and murky and the road is uphill and rocky, and the Cross is heavy. And oh how my heart swells at each step taken.

That is the picture of discipleship. The picture, the very essence of taking up His cross and following Him.

Are we willing to take up The Cross? And what selfless changes will need to be made in our lives as we do?

Calling the crowd to join his disciples, he said, “Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat; I am. Don’t run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I’ll show you how. Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way to saving yourself, your true self. What good would it do to get everything you want and lose you, the real you? What could your ever trade your soul for?. If any of you are embarrassed over me and the way I’m leading you when you get around your fickle and unfocused friends, know that you’ll be an even greater embarrassment to the Son of Man when he arrives in all the splendor of God, his Father, with an army of the holy angels.” Mark 8:34-38 MSG

Graced by God

Tammy Mashburn