I like to share stories. Particularly, those in which I’m the center of attention. Some may call it egoistic, but I tend to consider it incredibly honest: I mean, who can tell my own story better than ME? If anyone else tells it, others might consider it to be hear-say. My life has a story, and I’m the one who will tell it. Call it an autobiography. Call it an epic novel. I call it my testimony.
I also tend to carry crosses. Those crosses are hewn from my story. They are the weight of my tears. The sorrow of my heart. When I carry my crosses, I am reminded of where Jesus brought me from.
This was the way I justified my crosses for a long time. But no matter what I believe, I have always known that the scriptures are the defining truth. These are the scriptures that reflect my tears and my sorrow:
You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book. (Psalm 56:8)
Here are some other wonderful scriptures about my pain:
My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. (Psalm 73:26)
You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; you have loosed my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness. (Psalm 30:10-11)
I have accumulated a lot of crosses over the years. I make sure that I remember each and every time the Lord has pulled me through a great problem, and I build a cross in memory of the victory. I hold onto these crosses and they give me faith through my current problems. I define myself by them. I judge myself by them.
Can I be honest? Carrying crosses makes me tired. The problem with carrying all these crosses is that they obscure my site of the empty tomb that Jesus walked out of to give me freedom. My hands are so occupied with embracing my crosses that I’m not free to lift them up to Him in praise. I’m too busy gazing at my crosses to gaze into His eyes. I’m so preoccupied by my memories of where these crosses came from that I miss His Spirit when He moves by me.
With every trial He brings me through, every battle He fights for me, every sorrow that turns to joy, I take up another cross for the sake of my faith in Jesus Christ and what He has done for me… and I lose sight of HIM.
I talk about my crosses. I discuss what I was saved from. I show off the scars that my crosses made, the stains of my blood that poured down the wooden stakes, the splinters that testify to the sweat of my struggle to get back up every time I fell under the weight of my cross. For me, my crosses define my relationship with my Savior, and I am defined by my crosses.
Today, while driving down the road in a small country town in Georgia, I turned on my Pandora music to the song “Ven, Espiritu, Ven” by Marcos Barrientos and began to talk with Jesus. In English, the melody is simple:
Come, Holy Spirit, come
Come anoint me Lord with your precious touch
Purify my heart and cleanse my mind, renew my strength, restore my hope, Oh Lord, with Your power… I want to know you more.
My soul wept within me. It has been some time since I felt renewed. My strength is gone. My hope is weak. My mind and heart struggle to remember the peace of God’s presence and anointing.
In a still, small whisper, God said quietly as only He can, “You were never meant to carry these. You were only meant to carry one cross, and the burden of that cross is light.”
I’ve meditated on that fact all day today. I’m not meant to carry any other cross, but one.
Tonight, being a Wednesday, I searched out a church where I could worship and study the Word wfellow Christians. I chose a Church of God not far fromtmy location. I snuggled into a table in the women’s Bible Study as the leader was introducing a video, and nearly leaped for joy when Lisa Harper, a favorite author and speaker of mine, appeared to introduce another speaker. I listened contentedly, and then froze at a phrase that I had to jot down quickly:
“God’s providence will never take us to a place where God’s grace cannot sustain us.”
Lisa was introducing Priscilla Shrirer, and among the many points she spoke about, one stuck with me:
“Your situation is arranged or allowed by God, but be sure He will use it!”
The providence of God. The will of God. The plan of God.
I began to realize that I was not at this Bible Study by accident. God was speaking to me, and I was receptive. I examined the crosses surrounding me. My crosses did not represent the Providence of God to me. They represented time when I felt that God was out of control, and then swept in and took control. They represented my hopelessness-turned-salvation. They represented my fear-turned-peace. They represented a point in my life when I believed that God was NOT PRESENT and then later showed up to save the day (and to save me).
My crosses represented the pain I suffered; the tears I cried; the sorrow I endured. I began to struggle within myself as I thought harder about this concept of the PROVIDENCE OF GOD. Surely those difficult moments couldn’t have been of His divine providence! Surely He didn’t permit them to happen!
Yet, if I believe that the omnipresent God is not always in control, then I inadvertantly admit that Satan can take control without God’s knowledge or permission, which makes Him non-omnipresent (finite) and not in control (absent). And, we know by the truth of the scriptures that this is far from who God is.
So, if God is in control of EVERYTHING; and if He is omniscient, omnipresent, and all-powerful… then who prepared all my crosses for me?
I prepared the wood. I gathered the nails. I provided the hammer. I crucified myself to my crosses, one by one. I, and I alone, was responsible for the crosses that I carried.
So, tonight, I identified them, and I laid them down, one by one.
I do not know God’s ways. I do not understand His divine providence. I do not understand why He delivers some people, but does not deliver others. I do not understand why he heals some people, but does not heal others. However, this I DO know: there is only one cross I am called to carry and it is the Cross of Christ. All other crosses are burdens of my past that I willingly carry, and those burdens belong at the foot of the cross.
Don’t allow any other cross to define you, or your faith, other than the Cross of Jesus Christ. Lay your crosses down at the cross. Take up the cross of Jesus Christ and follow Him, and be defined by His truth. You are free.