As I was hanging off the edge of the Hilton in College Station, it struck me as weird that I was not afraid of the 110 feet between me and the ground. What I did fear was humiliation. I looked down and saw colleagues and students cheering me on as they live streamed my descent. My greatest fear was not death, heights, or injury. My greatest fear was doing something embarrassing like getting stranded halfway down, slipping too fast, or going too slow as my entire school watched and judged.
Is that strange? If it is, then it is not the first time I have acted strange in this way.
On my second night in Uganda, Kyle Wenokur shared the following verse during his devotional under the star-lit African sky. “Then he said to them all: ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.'” (Luke 9:23 – NIV)
One night after returning to Kampala, I sat under a tree, listening to praise and worship music and praying. All of the sudden I felt the presence of God overwhelm me. In that moment, I told God that I would be willing to risk my life in the pursuit of spreading his love and good news. God spoke to my heart immediately and said, “You are indeed willing to give up your life for me, but are you willing to give up your reputation for me? If I asked you and Jillian to go to Saudi Arabia for me, would you do it, even though it would make you look like a fool in the eyes of your family? If I asked you to sell all you have and live amongst the poorest of people for the rest of your life, would you do it, even though it would be judged as irresponsible back in the states? If I asked you to spend less time at work and more time with your family, would you do it, even though it might appear that you are not as dedicated as you once were?”
This was a much harder thing for me to give up. Then I realized that this was my cross. We all have one, and they differ depending on the person. I do not mind putting my life on the line, but putting my reputation on the line conjures up some serious fear and anxiety. It is my reputation then that I must be willing to give up on a daily basis for the sake of Christ. If I choose to preserve my reputation instead of following Christ, then my reputation becomes my god. What a fickle god that would be!
God does not ask all of us to stand in front of a crowd, be beaten and spit upon, and then be executed in a painful and drawn out fashion. He sent his son to do that for us. Instead, he asks each of us to give up that cherished and prized aspect of our lives that we hold so dear in order to spread his love and Gospel to the lost and broken-hearted. What is your cross? Join me in picking it up daily, denying ourselves, and carrying our cross for the one who gave it all for us.