A frequent topic at my church and youth group recently has been “bearing your cross” and what exactly that looks like for us as followers of Christ. We’ve had discussions, heard testimonies, and watched a video of a man who took the calling very literally (the link to that will be at the end of this post). I’ve seen it all as very encouraging and it’s poised the challenging question of whether or not we’ve each accepted the call to carry our own cross. But what exactly does it look like? Does it look like swallowing your pride? Going out and declaring Christ’s love? Does it look a tree on your back? Does it look like a piece of jewelry around your neck?
That’s where I want to stop and dive in today. That last question. My guess is at least a couple of you laughed at that because of the common criticism of how bearing your cross doesn’t mean wearing a piece of gold jewelry around your neck. Until recently I’d agree with that, but now I’d argue that for some people it does (at the very least it forms a physical example for them). Let me elaborate on that a little with my own experiences the past few weeks.
This idea was proposed during one of the discussions recently that wearing a cross around your neck does not equal bearing your cross. Now I want to reiterate that if you’d asked me about this at any time before the past month or so, I would have agreed without hesitation! For whatever reason this specific instance made me stop and think about it. I suddenly had memories flood in of morning after morning deciding on outfits and jewelry and a few things began to pop into my head (in this order).
1) I very rarely chose to wear any jewelry/garment with religious significance to work, school, or rehearsals. Really, Sundays were the only times that I ever picked up that piece with a cross or reference to the bible.
2) The thought of wearing anything like that somewhere besides church or around my equally religious friends made me shiver a bit, I wanted to sink back in my seat and hide. Why? I wouldn’t be stoned for it, would I? What consequence was there?
3) This is where I realized the consequences. Looking back, they all seem pretty insignificant, but isn’t that how it is so often? At the time, they were heart stopping, now they make me laugh at myself. People would ask about it, of course, I would answer, and then all these friends, coworkers, bosses, classmates would think differently of me. They’d stop including me, stop talking to me, stop liking me. Pretty foolish to put my own image above God’s glory, yeah?
4) I had to do it. I’d been asking God to challenge me and this idea would certainly do it. There was not a bone in my body that wanted me to put on one of those necklaces the next day. My head was yelling at me as I got ready the next day and picked out a necklace from my mother’s high school years stating that Jesus is the One Way. My hands shook a little bit putting it on, and lots of deep breaths were taken before leaving my car to head into my first class. This was repeated with work and rehearsal. The entire time I had this peace in my spirit, though. A gentle voice telling me it would be okay even if I was laughed at or rejected by my friends here. It told me I have a hope and a life beyond this world.
I want to go ahead and say that I’m a big ole people pleaser. Not so much that I want everyone’s approval (though who doesn’t face that sometimes?), but I want everyone to be as comfortable and as happy as I can make them. I’m fully aware that my identity is ultimately in Christ and fulfilled through Him alone, but that doesn’t stop my flesh from sneaking in sometimes trying to convince me that it lies somewhere else (like in my ability to make people happy).
That’s why it was so hard putting on a necklace that I knew would make a lot of people tense and perhaps shy away from me. Not only would they be uncomfortable, but it would be because of my choice. Not only would it be because of my choice, but I would have to face the fact that they wouldn’t want my help to soothe that uncomfortableness (and maybe refuse any other help in the future). These things were ultimately the reason for me not being as open as I could have been about what I believe in the past. While I’ve never denied that I am a believer, there have been too many times that I brushed it off in fear of not being able to stay comfortably within a group. Now, part of me wishes that I could tell you everything stayed in the peaceful place it always had been, that all my friends and coworkers didn’t care a bit, that I made it through that first week glowing and having incredible encounters and loving this choice. I wish I could say that because that’s what I was hoping for going into it.
Needless to say, it didn’t really turn out like that.
As is so often the way of the Father, the way it ended up turning out was significantly better than what I wanted. The whole experience has given me the opportunities to be much more clear about what I believe and the depth of that belief with people at school, work, etc. I’ve had some strangers say that they like my necklace. I have had a lot of people treating me differently. Coworkers have chuckled at the sight. Classmates and friends have shied back. Jokes about Christianity are a common reaction to the initial sight of it. There’s a new sort of tension in the air when I enter a conversation among friends. It breaks my heart knowing that they feel the need to detach themselves from me because of my beliefs and the negative connotations so many people hold in regards to Christianity/Christians. However, the freedom I’ve felt through it all and the new kind of connection to Christ has made the challenges more than worth it.
Coming out of it, I’ve felt much more at ease with being open about my beliefs. As I said before, it’s given more opportunities to share snippets of what I believe. I’ve come to truly acknowledge that some people will not like that I’m a Christian, but that doesn’t mean I can’t still show I care about them! If anything, I need to show it even more because they don’t know the same love that I do. The same love that inspires me to be so open about those beliefs that make people shy away. Them not knowing that love isn’t okay with me. These thoughts happened gradually (I started this about a month ago now), and it wasn’t until the past week or so that I could joyfully put on that necklace each morning knowing that I was publicly identifying with Christ and the Good News that His life and death on earth gave us.
Now, the reason for me sharing this is not to tell you to go buy a cross necklace and wear it every day for a month to see how much better you feel. The reason for me sharing this is to explain that bearing your cross can be scary and intimidating and will not be sunshine and butterflies (at least not most of the time). But bearing your cross and sacrificing your time, energy, comfort, pride, etc. brings about a whole new kind of connection to and understanding of Christ. It gives us the tiniest glimpse of what His own sacrifice was like. It looks different for everyone. For me the past few weeks, it’s looked like picking up a necklace every morning and unabashedly wearing it out and about each day. It also doesn’t have to be physical, however, I know that for me, having a physical thing to practice each day helps me to be consistent when I decide to challenge myself.
So, are you ready to take on the challenge? Are you ready to take hold of that idea that’s been looming over you with anxiety or fear? Are you ready for the call to go deeper into His Love?
Hello Beautiful People, thanks for reading! I’ve been trying to write this post for a couple of weeks now and figured that for now, this would be the best it could get, haha! A couple of prayer requests/actions needed!
First: This is the video mentioned before! A very cool physical display of carrying your cross and the opportunities and connection that arise. There is also a full-length movie/documentary done by the man and his wife! Click Here for the shorter 50th-anniversary video!
Second: Please continue to pray for me as I prepare for school in January and the finances that go along with that! I know God has amazing things in store and those will come about through faith and resting in His plan and goodness. Specifically, pray that the scholarships I’ve applied for will come through.
Finally: Someone I’ve been in contact with from Bethany Global University (where I’m going in January for anyone who doesn’t know) is working on raising money for a missions trip next July. They need to raise over $4,000 before March and don’t have much support when it comes to going overseas/being a missionary. A few ways to support: 1) Pray for them to have peace through this and pray that all the finances needed would be taken care of! 2) Buy a shirt! They have some super cool shirts they’re selling to raise money! Click Here to check them out! 3) Donate! If you’re interested, contact me and I’ll get you two connected! They have a few different ways to let people donate.
Thank you again for reading and your prayers! Don’t forget to head over to @gabrielle____r on instagram for more content!