Rite of passage parenting: Carrying the cross
While I’m still climbing, I want to talk to you about carrying the cross. The one I’m lugging up Mount Kilimanjaro is 12-feet tall and 6-feet wide. Even though it’s made of balsa wood, it still weighs in at 42 pounds. The path I’ve chosen to the summit and back is 42 miles each way. As I’ve carried it, I’ve learned several lessons:
///1. Carrying the cross is serious business. I’ve had many different people groups from many different countries sign it. To do so, they came on foot, by boat, by bus or by any means that would get them there. When they got to the front, many of those who stood in line told me they couldn’t read or write and asked if I would write their names instead. One even brought a little jar of ink so he could stamp his thumbprint in place of a signature. From old to young, they stood in line and waited to sign the cross that would go to the top of the world.
On my final night in Panama, three chiefs of different villages came in the dark of the night to sign their names to the cross. Some of them took me back by boat to the road where the bus would pick us up. As I was getting off the boat, the warriors, with tears in their eyes, lined the shore lines. They waved their arms and shouted over and over, “My name, my name is on the cross that goes to the top of the world.”
But all our names are on the cross. Scripture tells us that Jesus took the handwritten ordinance that was against us and nailed it to the cross (Col. 2:14). What was in that ordinance? My sins, your sins and the sins of the world. He wrote His name over ours and shed His perfect blood to satisfy a holy God. Whosoever puts their faith in Him will not perish, but have everlasting life. And there is no greater excitement than seeing our names change from guilty to innocent because He took our penalty.
///2. Most people can’t carry a cross. No matter how you hug it, it wobbles. The crossbeam sticks up in the air, and the other beam points down toward the ground. Walking with the cross creates a pendulum effect. Take one step, and it leans to the right. Take another, and it leans to the left. The faster you walk, the more it wobbles.
Carrying a cross is hard. But after about five miles, you learn to walk in sync with it, which brings great joy. At this point, the cross becomes not a burden, but an extension of you. I now have a better understanding of what it means when Jesus tells us to deny ourselves daily, pick up our cross and follow Him. He wants us to walk in sync with His cross to understand His life and His ways.
///3. Everyone notices. A 12-foot cross is hard to hide. People always stare as it passes by and aren’t quite sure what to do. Little children want to ride on it, old men want to kiss it and yes, some are even repelled by the sight of the cross. But no one ignores it. When we are truly following Jesus, the world will know it.
///4. People want to share the load. When I started this journey, it was just my two sons and me. And I shared this vision of attempting to carry the cross to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro, people came (as my Grandma would say) “out of the woodwork” volunteering to come along. Now, I have a team of 14 people who are helping me ascend to the top.
When God truly calls you to a task, He will call others to walk alongside you. I’m so grateful to all of those who have felt called of the Lord to help make this journey. Again, I’m reminded that the body of Christ is not me, but we. He will bring people alongside us to make the load a little lighter.
///5. Carrying the cross is always for an audience of One. I didn’t seek the media attention; it just happened. While we were preparing at the foot of the mountain, I was Skyping back to Tulsa Channel Six News on the progress of the climb.
But as I reach toward the top, there will be no TV cameras or reporters. Only the cross and I will get up at midnight so we can stand on the summit when the sun peeks over and catch a glimpse of His matchless glory. That’s what it’s all about: Jesus and me: period.
Next week, I’ll let you know if I made it!