"Start by carrying the crosses you already have"

June 5, 2008 | Conversion, Daily Spirituality | 17 comments

When I first realized that the claims of Christianity were true, I could hardly wait to go tell the world about it. Like many new converts, I was on fire about the idea of evangelization. I realized that overt evangelization efforts often come with a cross to carry — the world doesn’t want to hear what you have to say, people will think you’re a fool, etc. — but I was ready! I would gladly accept that cross to bring glory to God!

Just as I was gearing up to find the nearest rooftop from which I could shout about this good news, I came across the following quote:

Do not ask for more crosses until you have borne well those already given you.

I don’t remember where I first heard it, but it was exactly what I needed to hear as a new believer.

It made me realize that before I could embrace this future cross of doing whatever theoretical things I was going to do to tell people about God, I needed to take a look at how I was handling the crosses I had in this moment, right now. In the explosion of excitement I felt after realizing that all this Christianity stuff was true, I’d felt a frantic rush to go tell everyone about it before I stopped to really allow the teachings of this religion to transform my own life first. I was ready to boldly carry the cross of stating unpopular truths in the name of proclaiming the Gospel…while becoming exasperated by the little crosses of daily life. Not that I interpreted this to mean that I had to be perfect in order to evangelize, but it made me realize that I could probably do as much to bring glory to God by turning to him in calm trust when caught in an unexpected traffic jam as I could by telling someone about the historical case for the accuracy of the New Testament.

Probably because my conversion was almost entirely for intellectual reasons, I’d confined God to my head. God was something to be thought about, Christianity something to be contemplated. It was this advice — start by carrying the crosses you already have — that first snapped me out of my pontificating rut and made me see that this religion provided not just a series of truths about the universe and the human existence, but a way for each of us to have a living relationship with our Creator.

I began to see the drastic difference between thinking approving thoughts about suffering inconveniences gracefully and actually suffering inconveniences gracefully: I saw that it was the difference between seeking God with your head and seeking God with your heart. It was the difference between having an idea of God and having a relationship with God.

This was to be one of the first, most important lessons I learned in terms of what it means to fully live my Christian faith in daily life. And though the lesson was particularly timely as a brand new convert who was disproportionately more on fire for talking about faith than truly living the faith, I find that it’s something that I still struggle with every day. Over and over again I face the temptation to embrace future, theoretical crosses as I bemoan every inconvenience that’s set in front of me. As I attempt to grow in my newfound faith, I have found few things to be more true than this:

Anything is easier than carrying the cross that’s in front of you right here, right now.

And yet, as difficult as it is, I’m starting to think that it is when we start doing this, when we begin to calmly accept whatever cross stares us in the face at this moment, we will find ourselves on a fast track to true, deep conversion.

RELATED POST: “What does it mean to carry your cross?

A COUPLE NOTES: Thanks to Meta’s comment here for reminding me of this quote and pointing out that it’s from the amazing St. Francis de Sales. Also, I apologize if there is anything incoherent in this post. I was unexpectedly interrupted approximately 5, 972 times while trying to write it over the past couple of days. I actually found myself getting angry because I kept getting derailed from writing my blog post about carrying the crosses that are put in front of us. It’s a good thing you can’t die from irony overdose.

17 Comments

  1. Momma Mary

    God is speaking through you, and using your words to beat me over the head, I swear. I am so grateful to have found your blog!

    Thank you!

  2. Kelly @ Love Well

    Jennifer, if one could die from an irony overdose, most believing mommy bloggers would have died a loooong time ago.

    Amen? Amen.

    Fabulous post, as always.

  3. Chantal

    Thank you for a timely post. This is a lesson I will have to continue to learn, over and over again 🙂

  4. Marit

    I just discovered your blog and am thankful for it. I like your wise approach to christianity, without the pentecostal overdose that gets my back up!
    So…thank you!!
    Hopefully, sometime, with help of blogs like yours, I will feel able to look at God without all the anger and distrust that has built up over the years.

  5. Kimberly

    Great post. I have often thought that one of the best “witnesses” that one can have is to be living well. By that I do NOT mean “well” in a material sense, but “living life to the full”. I have seen some amazing testimonies of people filled with faith who are dealing with terrible and/or tragic circumstances. Yet they live with grace, and credit God with their attitudes.

    Would that I had those kind of attitudes.

  6. Sta

    I am going to play the dummy card here. But the phrase “Carrying your cross” always makes me pause. What does it mean exactly? Just… getting through whatever suffering God has assigned you? Getting through it with patience and thanksgiving? Maybe that’s it, but that phrase is one of those Christianese phrases that trips me up sometimes.

  7. ligmom

    i recently came across your blog in a link, and i am so enjoying reading all you share. what you have said about having an idea of God vs. a relationship with God–well, that pretty much put words to where i am. thank you for reminding me that following God and trusting Him means more.

  8. Meta

    Isn’t Francis de Sales the best?? That book changed me more than any other I’ve ever read.

  9. Joy of Frugal Living

    Thanks for your right-on advice and humor. 🙂

  10. Mary Poppins NOT

    Well, I was sitting here, nodding my head in agreement, thinking of all the people who should read this post. Then, I got gobsmacked with the realization that I NEEDED this worse than anyone. I have been having tons of dental work, and it looks like now I’ll have to have a root canal, and a have not been good about it. Quite babyish, actually. Kind of pitching a fit about it. So when I got to your part about “irony overdose”, yeah, me too! Thanks for being God’s instrument in helping through.

  11. Jackie B

    Were you listening to me complain about my current cross/job last night??? Sigh, why can’t I just be allowed to wallow in my own self pity? Instead, I have to decide to read your blog this morning and get over myself! “Start by carrying the crosses you already have”, indeed! Wise words.

  12. Marian

    Whew, another good one.

  13. Marian

    (Oops. I didn’t finish my comment!)

    I’ve always felt that, in some ways, the “big” trials in life are easier for me to bear well than the smaller, more common ones, and I think what you’ve written about here is why. Big trials come with bells, sirens, and blinking neon lights that say “TRIAL! TRIAL! THIS IS A TRIAL!” Like a firefighter who hears an alarm, I’m prepared to get my gear on in a hurry and do whatever is needed.

    When I’m not being mindful of and carrying my cross *daily*, the crosses appear in worldly garb as problems, inconveniences, and such. They fly under my worldy-focused radar and knock me over me in a torrent I can’t overcome, since I’ve put myself out there without my gear.

  14. jwhaws

    What are these “intellectual reasons” of which you speak that led you to Christianity? I’m curious.

  15. Jennifer F.

    Jeff – just replied in an email. Check your spam filter if you don’t see it.

  16. Anonymous

    From: Annamaria

    Blessed to have found your site through Catholic mom, http://www.daniellebean.com.

    Would like to pray for a commenter, Marit; join me if you wish:

    Merciful Father, God,

    We gather to pray for Marit, and other who feel as she does. You know what has hurt her. We ask that you heal her heart and make it soft to receiving the Truth of your word. Bind the devil and his evil ones, surround her with your angels. Lift her to feel your forgiveness, acceptance, love, and grace. We thank you for all you do.

    We pray this in the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, forever and ever. Amen

  17. Marit

    Thank you Annamaria.

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