Old Rugged Cross


By Janel Breitenstein

I admit: I forget.

It’s all too easy for me—in this life walking with God that’s admittedly so much more than my best daydreams—to forget I was called to a cross. In fact, my hide’s frequently chapped when I run into what feels like unnecessary pain.

I have heard the cross compared to the electric chair in its shame. It’s not really the kind of thing you’d sculpt into a charm and wear around your neck, really. Imagine if I did! Imagine what it would say. Make me suffer. Humiliate me. Misunderstand me. Make me a disgraced spectacle. Separate me from my family, my dreams, my ideas of fulfillment and achievement.  This object—this life, this death, His and mine!—they are beauty to me.

Take my life.

Twentieth-century martyr Dietrich Bonhoeffer has written, “The Cross is laid on every Christian …”

When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.

But Jesus said it first: For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.

The lyrics above fascinate me in their paradox to cling to the suffering, loss, and nailed-limbs helplessness God’s laid out for me. They remind me to lay down my “trophies,” all I’m tempted to offer God in the illustrious category “Reasons You Should Be Glad I’m On Your Team.” Maybe you find yourself doing it, too: presenting that spiritual resume to God. (You know, the one of all the things He gave me for His own honor. Not actually mine. Good grief.)

Paul got this, I think.  His spiritual resume reads:

If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel…as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless.

But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ.

…For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish…not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God... (Philippians 3:4-9)

What does that mean, to count all things loss, in your life and my life today? What do you love that would pain you to lose?

The question then becomes, is He enough if I lose what’s closest to my heart?

That lies at the heart of Jesus’ paradox.

Jesus, “for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame” (Hebrews 12:2). The Cross is necessary because it’s God’s scripted path to resurrection; to triumph and glory and beauty that, unlike this world, sticks around forever. Someday, we’ll exchange our splintered, shame-coated beams for a crown.

Today, may God propel you to the embrace of a Cross—and its unfailing promise of a crown.

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