I hesitate telling people I’m a Christian sometimes as I’m concerned I’ll be thrown into some sort of stereotype… not fun, boring, not allowed to do this, anti-(just about everything) and sometimes, sadly, pro-(insert harmful stuff here). ‘Follower of Christ’ is my preferred term as at least it indicates that there is some sort of action involved.
The season of Lent doesn’t really help the negative Christian label. On the surface, Lent seems to be focused on giving up stuff. Often yummy stuff like chocolate or fun things like Facebook and it’s not always obvious what we will do instead.
This week’s reading is from Mark 8:31-38 and it’s not an easy read. Verse 34 talks about forgetting yourself to follow Jesus. But what does that even mean?
Over the years of church attendance, I’ve heard lots of ways of interpreting this text. You may be familiar with it too as many sermons talk about taking up your cross and ask, ‘what is your cross?’ or ‘what do you need to put down to be able to carry the cross?’ etc etc.
I never really did figure out what my cross was or why Jesus would want me to be burdened with anything extra. There are lots of things I should probably give up in my life, however, I can always think of a million more positive things I could take action on instead. These kinds of questions can be useful, they certainly get me thinking but sometimes I end up feeling a little overwhelmed. Anyway, in my experience, positive transformation takes time and it kind of sneaks up on me bit by bit.
This week as I was researching the text I came across a blog ‘A Different Kind of Denial’ by Karoline Lewis. It was like a light-bulb moment for me (read the whole blog and tell me what you think). She talks about jumping on the denial bandwagon and simply rejecting joy as some sort of odd Lent tradition. She bravely asks …
So, what if we take deny “yourself” totally literally? Hang in with me here.
That is, you deny your selfhood when it rescinds relationship. You deny your autonomy when it refuses community. You deny your individualism when it rejects intimacy.
To “deny yourself and take up your cross” invites us into what the cross can also mean — not just death and suffering, but God choosing human relationships. The cross represents God’s commitment to humanity. The cross represents what we do when we are not in relationship with the other and think only for ourselves. Because to be ourselves is to be certain of our connectedness. – Karoline Lewis
I think Karoline is onto something. Being in relationship demands a little compromise and a lot of love on both sides. It can’t be all about ME or all about YOU. Faith communities work better when it’s a collaborative effort. Families are more peaceful when everyone gets a chance to be heard. There are a million of positive examples of what can happen when you put your own needs aside and make room for the other.
Equally, we can all think of how relationships, churches, work places, family and
communities have fallen apart when it becomes about ego and power struggles.
This post is up so late as I spent Sunday reconnecting with some of the very significant people in my life – childhood friends who are family, my brother and his lovely partner who are visiting from the UK, mum and my hubby Alan. We have all seen the best and the worst of each other and I have no doubt they love me and I love them all fiercely. We don’t always get it right, but we certainly want to and we aspire to get it right.
Through these relationships I get a peek at how God loves us unconditionally and I get to try out how God loves too. This isn’t a cross I bear – it’s an absolutely joy. Would God want me to give this up?
What relationships in your life give you a glimpse of God’s love?