It came out of my mouth half jokingly —“This Lenten season is going to be the death of me!” And maybe that’s exactly what it’s supposed to be. Maybe that’s what Paul, a man ironically chained for the gospel of Jesus, meant when he freely expressed these words through the power of the Holy Spirit …
“My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20 NLT)
And wasn’t Jesus pretty clear when He said … “If any of you want to be my follower, you must stop thinking about yourself and what you want. You must be willing to carry the cross that is given to you for following me.” (Matthew 16:24 ERV)
And maybe the Australians got it right when they used the words, “Give Way” on what we know in America as a sign to “yield”. Give way to the way of Jesus …trust the path He has marked out for me …surrender. My will, my independence, my need for control, my need for safety and protection, my obsession to lean on my own understanding, trying to avoid suffering of any kind–emotionally or physically, my need to be perfect, my trust in my own good deeds, my need to fix people for my own comfort as well as my “perceived” comfort of those around me, my need to have it my way, the need for _________(fill in your own)____________ have to “give way” to the way of the cross …the way of Jesus–the Way, the Truth and the Life. It’s the only Way.
Imprisoned and eventually executed for following the way of Jesus, Dietrich Bonhoeffer speaks as one with great credibility to the inner battle of giving way to the cross when he says, “There are many Christians who do, indeed, kneel before the cross of Jesus Christ, and yet reject and struggle against every tribulation in their own lives. They believe they love the cross of Christ, and yet they hate that cross in their own lives. And so in truth they hate the cross of Jesus Christ as well, and in truth despise that cross and try by any means possible to escape it.” He goes on to say, “They have used the cross, but not loved it.“ (Chapter 10, Bread and Wine~Readings for Lent and Easter)
I carried a large wooden cross in the back of my truck for a few days in order to move it from one location to another. It frustrated me. It didn’t fit. I lifted and shoved and tried my hardest to wedge it up further into the truck so it would fit nicely inside. Instead, it stuck out of the back like a big annoying block of wood which made me nervous that someone would run right into the thing and knock themselves out. It felt more like an obtrusive, obnoxious beam than a symbol of loving, life-giving salvation. I didn’t want to go anywhere with it. It was a nuisance. At one point I even hoisted it up on my own shoulders and carried it right into the house to avoid any possible problem I worried it might cause …only to find it was still “in my way”. I didn’t want to carry the cross. I didn’t even want to bear it in my vehicle nor did I want to allow myself to see any spiritual significance this might possibly be speaking into my life. I was only satisfied when it was …out of my way.
You see, giving way is not easy, my friend. In fact, it’s excruciating! It will be the breaking point, as Oswald Chambers says with these words from chapter 7 in Bread and Wine, “The one point to decide is: Will I give up, will I surrender to Jesus Christ, and make no conditions whatever as to how the break comes? I must be broken from my self-realization, and immediately that point is reached, the reality of the supernatural identification takes place at once, and the witness of the Spirit of God is unmistakable.”
But the breaking always gives way to life! Because the truth is, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed . You and I may feel buried under the dirt of it all but it’s in the dying–the giving way– that many seeds are produced. God does the miraculous resurrection and in turn produces real fruit–fruit that will last. He helps us push right through whatever has buried us so that we can give way to His glorious Light– becoming the display of His splendor that we were always meant to be.
That last sentence sounded all beautiful and everything but the reality is it can be a very painful process. This is where trust comes in …I have to trust that God will never lead me down a path that He hasn’t already prepared in advance for me to travel. The truth is, He has already gone before us and He gladly walks with us to make sure we get through to the other side.
It seems it is only in the breaking open that real breakthroughs can actually come about.
I know my life was meant to make a difference but I have to die to my own way of thinking and my own plans as to how that might look …allowing the Holy Spirit to drench me …forcing that dead seed to break open to real life …trusting God for whatever He is producing in me–whether a giant oak or a dainty tulip… a flowering redbud tree or a wispy daffodil …evergreen or seasonal. It’s not my choice; it is always His and it is always beautiful in His time!
“The cross is not the horrible end of a pious, happy life, but stands rather at the beginning of community with Jesus Christ.” (Dietrich Bonhoeffer-chapter 10 Bread and Wine) Jesus promised that in Him, death has given way to victory… completely swallowed up, to be exact! This is the beginning …not the end! This is when we can be free to truly live. “All the rest is pious fraud,” as Oswald Chambers declares. This is true communion …true fellowship …true abiding joy and peace through Jesus Christ .
The dirt will not overtake us. The Light has come to give way to true life. Life is not over — it has just begun. Give way to the way of Jesus.
“Any of you who try to save the life you have will lose it. But you who give up your life for me will find true life. “
Ahhh…there was so much more that could have been shared from the reading this week. What about the chapter, “Followers, Not Admirers” written by Soren Kierkegaard!! Let’s keep the discussion going. Is there something you had to wrestle through or let go of in order to fully take hold of Jesus Christ? Feel free to share in the comments below.
It’s great fun to have Marie Griffith join in this Lenten journey on her blog, Full-Time . Be sure to visit her as we gather together online for more reflections and encouragement on our way to the Father’s heart.
If you’re reading along in Bread and Wine~Readings for Lent and Easter, this post was in response to insights from Chapters 6-12.
*Next week we’ll share some thoughts based on Chapters 13-19. You don’t have to read the book to join in. Just bring yourself.
Embrace the journey.
*Photo of the cross taken by Donna Lehman, 2017