“Then he said to them all, ‘If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will save it. What does it profit them if they gain the whole world, but lose or forfeit themselves?” (Luke 9:23-25)
As we began walking through Holy Week, I was left pondering on the meaning of cross to us as outcasts. Then recognizing that taking up the cross does not mean, what we have made the cross to mean, of carrying a heavy burden. The idea that a cross is something that we as outcasts must endure as Christians seems to limit personal growth, which is the opposite of what Jesus asks. This also seems to be accepting something not intended for us as Christians, the limit on what the communion of saints looks like. To recognize, that the communion of saints looks like a lot of different people, not just like ourselves.
That accepting the cross as burden, is similar to accepting something outside of us. In some ways it almost seems counter productive, given the reality that many of us are not included, nor welcome at the table in many Christian Churches. The act of exclusion is not from a place of love, it is a place of fear.
The exclusion from a spiritual home or from a spiritual family, is not our cross to bear either. That exclusion is someone else removing our possibility to be a member of a spiritual community, our choice is to honor their desire to exclude us or not, to also not allow a cross to become something of self pity. These are not the actions Jesus asks of us, to “love our neighbors as ourselves”. (Mark 12:31) That we have to first care about ourselves and how we are treated. While also accepting that God never intended for us to suffer. That if our spiritual home causes us suffering, to see how it could change, to begin a shift to a view of the radically inclusivity Jesus taught or to find that spiritual home. To move from what keeps us from God, “those who lose their life for my sake will save it”, is to allow the flow of the Holy Spirit.
The recognition that the idea of losing our life, is scary for most, especially if taken literally. If we approach this literally, we miss the symbolism, that death can be changing our ways. This is similar to the first step to surrender to God, in the twelve steps. We can die to old ways, our human ways of material gain. To ultimately, look at ways that help us walk closer with God.
That as an outcast, our cross is being an outcast, to help others see through our actions where Christ can be found. It is the acceptance that, as an outcast we accept our path of striving to be more Christ like in the world, we stand within the communion of saints that understand the beauty within the diversities in our human existence. Furthermore, to begin recognizing those things that nourish the spirit. This is the acceptance or beginning of the acceptance, God is already within us, (John 17:21) not outside of us. That the stuff outside of us are distractions to our path as Christians. This awareness then is the cross Jesus asks us to take up is to be ourselves, to begin learning what, helps us as we walk in faith to be more Christ like. That accepting our path as outcasts as the cross we are to carry, is remembering what connects us to something greater than we are.