Taking Up The Cross – CMN Women
Taking Up The Cross
by Priscilla Perumalla
“God prepares a cross for you that you must embrace without thought of self-preservation.” -Francois Fenelon
Many of us in our younger more zealous years with all our heart and sincerity declared to the Lord, “USE ME! At any cost!!” But those words were spoken by childrenless, husbandless, careerless lips.
As my circumstances have changed, I often find myself bound by excuses I create in an attempt to maintain the blessings that my loving Father freely gives. When I wrongly perceive the cross to be unbearably heavy, I become burned out by ministry and find myself resenting the call – and Jesus for giving it to me.
The burden begins with a misunderstanding of what taking up the cross actually means.
Mark 8:34 (with a few side thoughts from me) says, “If anyone wishes to follow Me, he must deny himself [set aside selfish interests], and take up his cross [expressing a willingness to endure whatever may come] and follow Me [conforming to My example in living and, if need be, suffering or perhaps dying because of faith in Me].
Many of us have become shocked by the weight of what we assume to be the cross when, really, the bags we unnecessarily packed to go on the journey with Jesus are what are causing our knees to buckle.
When we pick up our crosses, we tend to hold tight to what we have and who we are, hoping that God’s transformative power will somehow still pay homage to who we once were – maybe a 2.0 version of ourselves. But the word of God paints a very different picture of that process. His word says the old things have passed away. They are dead. God does not choose to revive our old selves, but revive us as a new creature in Him.
In Matthew 11, Jesus says, “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me [following Me as My disciple], for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest [renewal, blessed quiet] for your souls. For My yoke is easy [to bear] and My burden is light.”
When we find ourselves being crushed under the weight of our call we must ask ourselves why it is so heavy. Jesus’s words were clear that his yoke is easy and his burden light.
When I find myself feeling like the weight is crushing, I force myself to take a step back and ask the Holy Spirit, “What is on me that you did not put there? What is on me that I refuse to let go of?” I ask myself, “Am I resisting the cross and its work in me somehow?”
Self-preservation can be very sneaky. For me, it’s really sneaky, because for so long it was necessary for survival. I have prayed and prayed that my fight-or-flight reflexes, which seemed to be forever turned on because of how tumultuous my upbringing was, would be turned off. I am always ready to defend what is mine and make a case for what I deserve.
So, when picking up my cross creates an atmosphere of release, my battle with my own need to preserve kicks in. If I do not have the active guiding presence of the Holy Spirit, my perspective shifts from battling myself to release the old to fighting the work of the cross in my life. When I find myself resenting the work of the ministry, I know that I am self-preserving.
My prayer for you is that if you are finding the cross and the call too weighty that you will turn to Jesus, who is gentle and humble in heart, where you will find rest (renewal, blessed quiet) for your souls (Matthew 11). That you will have the strength to cheerfully rid yourself of the old ways that should have been laid down when you picked up your cross.
I pray that your awareness of the Holy spirit be heightened and your ears be fine-tuned to his words, so that the direction of your path will be clear and fearless. I pray over your heart a renewal of a deep trust in the plans of the Father!
Priscilla Perumalla and her husband, Stephen, live in New York City, where they planted The Grace Place Church in 2016. They reside in West Harlem with their two children, Boston and Aviah.