Have I told you about my friend, Jess? Oh, yeah, I have pretty much referenced or quoted her in almost every post recently. Well, she is bearing her soul and mining for gold over in her corner of the blogosphere. And she could not be writing my heart any more clearly about authenticity, vulnerability, community and all things hard when it comes to accepting our identity in Christ while connecting with other broken humans. She is passionately preaching the great melting of all the pretty plastic people & the smashing of the stained glass masquerade. And I could not be more proud to call her friend, sister, teammate, kindred spirit and fellow prophet.
Not so funny story about that though. When I first asked her to join me in this 31 day writing challenge, I had no idea about what her side of the conversation would be. So when I started reading her conversation I was so taken aback by her ability to weave words into beautiful tapestries of truth that I allowed her gift to make me feel unworthy of writing myself – a bit like Isaiah & his woe is me of unclean lips. I was tempted to quit my own endeavor. I even took a break from reading her words which were encouraging exactly the opposite response & action than the one I was choosing.
And it astounds me at how easily I can become entangled in the insecurities I wrote about earlier. Even as I rage against them in my head and my heart and mourn the the ways the insecurities of others have hurt me so deeply in the past. And I cannot help but think that if we allowed ourselves a closer look at our beloved friends instead of always gazing from afar or on the other side of the screen, we would come to realize that we no longer covet their gift once we have seen clearly how much it costs them to carry the cross chosen for them.
“Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me'” (Matthew 16:24).
“And he went out carrying his own cross” (John 19:17).
Which reminds me of this entry in my favorite devotional, Streams in the Desert:
“There is a poem called ‘The Changed Cross.’ It represents a weary one who thought that her cross was surely heavier than those of others whom she saw about her, and she wished that she might choose another instead of her own. She slept, and in her dream she was led to a place where many crosses lay, crosses of different shapes and sizes. There was a little one most beauteous to behold, set in jewels and gold. ‘Ah, this I can wear with comfort,’ she said. So she took it up, but her weak form shook beneath it. The jewels and the gold were beautiful, but they were far too heavy for her.
Next she saw a lovely cross with fair flowers entwined around its sculptured form. Surely that was the one for her. She lifted it, but beneath the flowers were piercing thorns which tore her flesh.
At last, as she went on, she came to a plain cross, without jewels, without carvings, with only a few words of love inscribed upon it. This she took up and it proved the best of all, the easiest to be borne. And as she looked upon it, bathed in the radiance that fell from Heaven, she recognized her own old cross. She had found it again, and it was the best of all and lightest for her.
God knows best what cross we need to bear. We do not know how heavy other people’s crosses are. We envy someone who is rich; his is a golden cross set with jewels, but we do not know how heavy it is. Here is another whose life seems very lovely. She bears a cross twined with flowers. If we could try all the other crosses that we think lighter than our own, we would at last find that not one of them suited us so well as our own” (Glimpses through Life’s Windows).
So, sisters, I choose not to covet your cross. Or compete with you. I will not feel less than in your presence. Instead I will join you in the burning of the corset of shame & comparison and in the celebrating of each other’s gifts & successes. Because they do not threaten my existence or my worth (unless I choose to let them). Instead they have the power to bless me and free me to walk in Truth. And in that I will trust the One who is writing my story and fashioning my cross to choose His best for me. And for you. I will add my chapter to yours hoping that in our unity & vulnerability, He might be praised.
I will cheer you on and even lend a hand when you stumble under the weight of your own cross.
Might you return the favor?