“If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross.”
“No one is forced, but if any will be a Christian, it must be on these terms: Let him deny himself, and take up his cross. This rule can never be too much observed: let each on in all things deny his or her own will, however pleasing, and do the will of God , however painful.” ~ John Wesley
I was in rare form this week when my Father God was talking to me about the crosses, the many crosses large and small that exist in my life; the ones I must carry. In bold audacity, while languishing in a pit of self, I said out loud, “Even Jesus had help carrying the cross.”
As they were going out, they met a man from Cyrene, named Simon, and they forced him to carry the cross.
I knew right when the words came out that I looked like a toddler with a fist in his father’s face; if not absurd, then humorous. I’m amazed at the patience God extends when I show such an infantile attitude. In times like these I guess I’m telling him that I’m tired of being all grown up. The crosses are heavy and well, I just want to complain for awhile.
“Great crosses are occasions of great improvement. And the little ones which come daily, even hourly, make up in number what they lack in weight. We may, in these daily and hourly crosses, make effectual sacrifice of our will to God. These, so frequently repeated, will soon mount to a great sum.” ~ John Wesley
In that moment alone there with my Father, questioning what it was he expected of me, he looked down at me, extended his arm of grace and wrapped one large God hand around my tiny fist and looked me square in the eye. What did I see there? Simon of Cyrene on one side of the cross, and me on the other. When I pick up my crosses (and picking them up is sometimes the hardest part) and follow him, I take part in Christ crucified. I share in his suffering.
And what about that help that Jesus received, that he didn’t even ask for, that man named Simon that his Father placed in his path?
‘Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."
As he reminds me of these words that Jesus spoke, I come full circle in my conversation with God. I now realize that Jesus is my Simon of Cyrene. The difference? Jesus isn’t forced to help me, he helps me willingly. When I lay my life down at his feet and pick up the life that he has for me, the yoke is easy and the burden is light. The weight of the large crosses and the weight of the many small ones become bearable when aided by his ever renewing strength.