At church last night, in our observance of Lent, we focused on what I understand to be the traditional 2nd Saturday of Lent scripture (I may be wrong about that traditional part, this Lent stuff is so new to me). As part of the discussion, we talked about the passage of Mark 8:34-9:1. Within this text is the statement,”If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” Paul asked for examples of denying oneself both in the correct sense and in the improper sense. The contributions were very good. Tithing and time were both given as ways we can deny something for ourselves and instead give it to God. But my brain went in a completely different direction.
I saw that the “deny himself” phrase seemed closely tied to the “take up his cross” phrase. That connection said to me that this denial must be a very profound thing, not just me denying myself desert or baseball cards or 100 watt light bulbs. It said to me that this denying myself must be more of a complete life change, a paradigm shift, a different way of relating to God. Denying myself meant to me that I have to live like the Lord’s prayer where I ask God this day for my daily bread. Where I ask God to sustain me for this day without yet regarding tomorrow. All God has promised is to sustain me for this moment. And to me denying myself means that I quit planning so far out, that I quit trying to fix the future, that I quit living out there in front of me so much as I am living right here and now. That I trust God to sustain me for this moment, and then worry about the next moment when it is here.
So the next question I have is this: what is my cross? Is it the same cross that Jesus carried? Is that what he means? Or is there a different cross for each of us? Is my cross something that Christ asks me to do or is it some burden I carry or is it the same burden he carried? I don’t think I have a good answer for that yet. Obviously he is not expecting each of us to be physically crucified. What does he mean? And is my cross something that does something directly for another or are others indirectly affected because of what my cross does to me?
Another question I have is this: does denying oneself mean that it has to involve a suffering of some sort? Or can denying oneself be something that we enjoy? Or if it does mean suffering can it be joyful suffering that I actually am eager to do?
So I guess it appears that I actually have more questions than answers. I though I was going to put down answers here, but most of what I see is questions. Interesting.