The Mystery of Taking Up Our Own Cross

Of course eating is not our only need.  And so fasting need not be about physical food.  Anything we might become over-dependent on, over-focused on, this might be the subject of a fast.

Fasting is sacrifice.  And that word: sacrifice of course has a different meaning.  But here is another mystery: because when they killed an animal or burned those grains, they weren’t really so different from our modern sacrifices at all.

The sacrifice was this: proving that something that could have been consumed for our own selfishness will actually be given over to God.  Various times (including through Jesus himself) we are reminded that God doesn’t want sacrifices given robotically, unthinkingly, unemotionally.

Of course nothing is deeply and truly ours.  The raw materials for everything came from our creator.  The talents that honed these materials  came from him.  The dedication to maximize these talents came from him too.  The opportunity to get the thing.  None of these are ours.

And so a sacrifice is giving over to God something that was his anyway.  Whether it’s the slaying of a bull.  Or fasting from food, or the internet, or movies, or cafienne.  None of these things were ours, really at all.  Giving them up to God demonstrates our peace with this reality.

And what is more, sacrifice is a golden and inexplicable opportunity to stand in solidarity with God himself.  God opened himself to the possibility of suffering when he created knuckle-headed humans who possessed free will.  This possibility turned into an actuality with Adam’s and Eve’s betrayal.  It culminated with Christ’s suffering on the cross.

I do not believe that God wants us to whip ourselves, to have ourselves nailed to a cross.   But Jesus took on suffering voluntarily, that was a completion of God’s suffering in Eden.  And we can take on suffering, too, that is an echo, and a reminder of what he did for us.

Which is the greatest mystery of all: In suffering, we find the depths of God’s love.


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The stories that speak to our soul begin at a home where things are good. Cinderella is happy with her father. The three little pigs have grown up and are ready to move on. Bilbo Baggins knows his shire. Adam and Eve walk with God in the garden. My story isn’t much different. There was a time and a place where it was so good. There was a community for me. And there was joy. We were filled with a sincere desire to do what God wanted us to do. We possessed explanations and understandings that went a certain distance. We offered security and tradition and laughter. For a lot of years, that was enough. I have this sense that it was also necessary. I have this surety, now, that it certainly wasn’t everything. There were some things that became increasingly problematic as time went by. There was a desire to package things up so very neatly. Sunday morning services were efficient and strategic. Responses to differences of opinion were premeditated. Formula began to feel more important than being real. A real desire for everybody to be one of us, but also a real sense that there is an us, and there is a them. They carried a regret that it has to be this way, but deeper than this regret was a surety that this is how it is. I began to recognize that there was a cost of admission to that group. There were people who sat at the door, collecting it. Those people wished they didn’t have to. But I guess they felt like they did have to. They let some people in, and they left others out. There was a provisional membership. My friends did possess a desire to accommodate people that are different… But it would be best for everyone concerned if they were only a little bit different. I did make many steps forward in this place. Before I went there, there were lies that I believed. Some of the things that I learned there, I still hold on to. But that place is not my home anymore. Those people are not my community anymore. There were times it was hard. I am engaged in a different community now. And I am working hard at finding a place in many different places now, embracing many different kind of families. I don’t always get it right. I am trying and I am learning and I am moving foreward. I have this sense that I am not alone in these experiences. I believe that we are tribe and we are growing. We are pilgrims, looking for a new holy land. Perhaps we won’t settle on the same spot of land. But if you’ve read this far, I am thinking that we are probably headed in the same general direction. I have begun this blog to talk about where my journey is taking me. In every space, we find people who help us along. And maybe we can get to know each other, here. We embrace ideas that provide a structure for the things we believe, and perhaps we can share these too. Maybe we can form a group, a tribe, a community, if we can figure out a way to work through the shadow of these kinds of groups, if we can bigger than the us-and-them ideas that have caused so much trouble in the past. As important as they are, I think the very nature of online interactions will lend itself to something equally powerful. I am stumbling onto these practices that my grandfathers and great grandfathers in the faith engaged in. I am learning about these attitudes and intuitions are so different than the kinds of things we call doctrine today. I don’t know about you, but I am running out of patience, and even interest, in conversations about doctrine. I hope that maybe you’ll share a little something about where your journey is taking you, and maybe our common joys and challenges might help each other along, and we might lift each other up. Thanks for doing this journey with me.

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