By Kathie Hempel –
In the famous line from the 1980’s movie 9 to 5, Dolly Parton chastises, “get off of the cross we; need the wood.” While rather irreverent, the line struck a chord with Christians and non-believers alike.
Matthew 16: 24 in the International Standard Version is recorded as: “Then Jesus told his disciples, ‘If anyone wants to follow me, he must deny himself, pick up his cross, and follow me continuously’.”
Both quotations seem to suggest that rather just ‘hangin’ around,’ we are meant to get to work. We need to get about the work of resurrection and not get stuck focusing on the death. We need to pick up the wood that used to crucify the old man and of that make a new thing.
But how? Whatever might we hope would follow the Glory of Easter? And why is it so dang hard to make the transition into a new and glorious life?
It’s work. For those of us who might secretly hope that the day after Easter we would be floating around on a cloud eating bagels with cream cheese, this can be a very rude awakening. What? Back to the old grind?
No. We have a new employer. A gentler employer and trust me this is a big switch and understood, perhaps best, by those who have worked for themselves. As with any new job, there is a period of adjustment and finding your way around.
The policies and procedures manual for this new work is unique. It has the same content for all employees and yet is open to different interpretation depending on the specific task assigned, the individual and quite frankly some of the guidelines are not all that clear.
Great news! This Bible manual comes with a personal guide and instructor. A tutor for those who will accept the tutelage and we have forever to get the job down. God never fires us. He never lays us off. There is always plenty of work. The toughest part of the job is that while there is plenty of loving support, there is no delegation. Each of us must complete our own assignments. By grace there are no deadlines.
As we step down from the cross into the work of practicing our resurrection, it can feel more like we are stepping into a wasteland than a verdant garden. We realize that the road before us is not so cut and dried, as we may have imagined the path we previously followed. This can be frightening and shadows of the past can threaten to pull us backward. However, they are just that: shadows. While they can appear to be threatening, when we turn about and face them, they disappear.
Adding one small step to the next, we soon realize the truth of the adage: “Fear knocked, faith answered and there was no one there.”
Oh, the places you can travel in this new position! The journey forward as with all travel starts with but one step but as Neil Armstrong noted when he first stepped out on the moon, “That’s one small step for man, one giant step for mankind.”
When we step down from the cross, it is not just our own journey that changes. We may never know all the people, both near and never known, that one decision will affect. Working for our new employer means we are working for all those he loves. The realization of that, can keep us going in the tough times that will inevitably come up.
We can meet with tremendous resistance. This is significant change we are working on here and we will have to overcome it in ourselves and from others. When we meet this resistance, we recognize the need for a new glossary of terms to accompany our policy and procedures training manual. It is now we begin to redefine what we mean by the words we use to describe the journey.
In his book, The War of Art, Steven Pressfield exposes Resistance as it relates to this great love that now directs our lives.
“Resistance is directly proportional to love. If you’re feeling massive Resistance, the good news is, it means there is tremendous love there too. If you didn’t love the project that is terrifying you, you wouldn’t feel anything. The opposite of love isn’t hate, it’s indifference.
“The more Resistance you experience, the more important your unmanifested art/project/enterprise is to you—and the more gratification you will feel when you finally do it.”
Stepping down from the cross is the biggest project many of us will ever undertake. It certainly is the most rewarding, for finally we have purpose. We are now working through another’s power and while it can feel uncomfortable for a while, it holds the promise of great satisfaction.
Stepping down from the cross, we enter an exciting new world with work we can truly love.