The Art of Building Your Own Cross
The reader might like to get on with dying, but not know how to go about it. It’s one thing to have a willingness to give up to God what is rightfully His, and quite another to know how to do it. I remember receiving a letter not too long ago from a young man begging me to instruct him on how he might die to himself. He was more than willing. He was desirous of the death of his self-interests to bring him into more intimate fellowship with the Lord. He just didn’t know how to go about it.
The answer is—don’t do it. Don’t try to set up your own execution. Many Christians interpret Jesus’ admonition to “take up the cross” as instructions to begin immediate cross building. This is a mistake. Although Jesus indeed instructs us to take up our cross (as opposed to His cross—Calvary), He nowhere suggests that we attempt spiritual self-execution. John Wright Follette reminds us,
The cross is a symbol of suffering. Do you want to live? Then take up your cross. What is your cross? You will have to interpret your own cross, for yours is not like anyone else’s. It will be a cross fitting your whole concept and disposition, and more than that, your will. Whatever you are in your will, determines your cross. What may be a cross to you may seem like a joy-ride to another. It is that which will crucify the I in you that will determine your cross … John W. Follette, Broken Bread (Gospel Publishing House), p. 183.
Why can’t we build our own crosses? Simply because the ones we build do not get the job done. No one is proficient at self execution. For this reason, when an individual attempts to “crucify” himself, more often than not, he remains very much alive. A cross manufactured by a twentieth century Christian is generally quite plush. Padded and cushioned, the believer reposes on the cross in style. To help ease the pain, sympathetic friends mount a special remote control television set and pass up a sponge filled with Coca-Cola. Within a few days the “disciple” dismounts his cross and begins to share on the resurrection life of which he knows nothing—due, of course, to the fact he never died!
If we will wait on the Lord, He will, master craftsman that He is, fashion a cross for us that will accomplish its purpose. It will slay us. He knows what it will take to bring us to the end:
He disillusions us with ourselves by the experience of our weakness and our corruption, in an infinite number of failures, and yet, even then when He seems to overwhelm us, it is for our good, it is to spare us from the harm which we would do to ourselves. What we weep for would have made us weep eternally. What we believe to have lost was lost when we thought we had it. Fenelon, Christian Perfection (Harper & Row), pp. 83, 84.
It was only a desert mirage.