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I have a major admission to make. I have yet to give up anything for Lent. Fact is, Lent sort of crept up on me.
I’ll definitely have to think about this issue before Jesus rises and the bunny shows up. If I give up chocolate candy, then a Hershey’s bar would taste especially delicious on Easter morning. On the other hand, maybe I should give up French fries.
Giving up the good stuff is what lots of people think the Christian life is about. They see Christianity in light of the Ten Commandments, with all those “thou shall not” rules. But are actions in the Ten Commandments things we really need to be doing? How would we like it if people did those things to us? We don’t want to be lied about or killed, for example, do we?
Jesus said, “Take up your cross and follow me” (Matthew 16: 24). Some people think that means to pridefully suffer through a thankless job, physical illness, or some other misery. “It’s my cross to bear,” they say, sighing. But that’s not what Jesus had in mind.
So, what does “take up your cross” mean? In Jesus’ day, the cross signified death. It means surrendering to God’s will. Yes, we might experience certain losses. We might even need to give up our hopes, dreams, possessions and our lives.
I know a pastor who was planning on becoming a theater major when he got to college. Yet the only scholarship available to him was for pre-ministry students. And then a letter was found addressed to him, left by his deceased mother. She had written, “when you become a minister…”
He gave up his desire for the theater and ended up becoming a minister — and has not regretted it.
God desires the best for us. We might have losses, but we will not “suffer them.” The Christian life is the best one possible. It’s less about giving up and more about gaining peace and eternal life.
Donna Crowe is a minister’s wife.