Deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me…

I used to think that taking up a cross meant being visible and public about my allegiance to the Almighty, sort of a mix between Michael W. Smith’s “Cross of Gold” and Romans.

I was seventeen then.

Nearing forty, it’s about taking up my cross, my torture device, my slow and painful death, and carrying it after Jesus.

From 13 to 27 I knew that I was going to be a pastor.  Bombed that one.
I spent 1/4 of my life dedicated to repairing a relationship that I had damaged, though the effort cost me every material and most immaterial thing I had.  To no effect.
I’ve written more than 1.37 million words of prose in an effort to be part of the Christian Sci-Fi movement, without success.
There are people I love more than life itself.  They have long since forgotten any joy of my presence.

Guess what the reward is for successfully leaving behind homosexual activity in your life?
Isolation, rejection, loneliness, and pain.

Take up my cross and follow you, Jesus?
My best possible understanding for that now is to take one step forward after another with no earthly hope for any of the things I most dearly love and seek after in life.  I will walk with you with my third and fourth-best options and watch others feast on the dreams I have cherished most.  I will wake up every day knowing that the things I want most in life will never be mine, that you have denied them to me, and that you are still my God.
I will follow you, not because you fill my life with happy goodie fun times as I watch my parents rot to death while I work in exile, and exile I entered into for the sake of a relationship I have lost despite giving everything I had in life for its sake.  I will follow you with no ministry, no glory, no release from my exile, no hope, and a thorny path of pain ahead.
I will go forward though the last three churches have taught me the truth that used to drive my double-life: No one can truly know you and love you.  They will either know you and be unable or unwilling to love you, or they will know you and reject you.  I do not hope to find a home with love and companionship.  I only hope to endure a life of rejection, knowing my strength will fail, o strength of my heart.
I will take up my CROSS, my strauron, my impending death, and I will stagger after you…

Because to whom else should I go?  The words of eternal life are yours.  Under what other son can I wither and die than under the Light of the World that can make me grow again after I fall to the earth?  From whom should I turn, when laying out a path of despair for my heart you then abide in my heart to hurt along with me, to be my one faithful companion in face of disability and disinterest among those who have professed to love me.

It was easy to pledge my life to you at fourteen with my parents, my pastor, my smoking hot girlfriend, and my church looking on.
It is not easy to be yours when it means rejecting the sinful thrills that killed the hurts in my life without yet receiving the healing to those hurts, when the bright razor edge of youthful ambition has been dulled to stubborn iron that simply endures.

But he who endures to the end will be saved.  So I return to my vow, to my position, to my confirmation of whom you have called me to be.

Lord help me to love those who despise and hate me.  Help me to return blessing to curse, patience to impatience, compassion to indifference, and dedication to faithlessness.

I only ask that you do not turn from me, and I will take up this cross, this death of my hopes and dreams, this impending earthly doom.  And I will carry it for the joy and glory that will be revealed in us.  I will carry it because your love is worth more than the whole world and all of the easy happiness that the false profits and the worldly Christians enjoy.

I am no better than they, Lord.  I am far, far worse.  But only let me be yours, and I will bleed inside however long you need, until by your stripes I am healed, until you renew my youth like the eagles, knit me back together by your power, call me by name, and raise me up to walk about with you as your brother, your son, and your friend.  Comfort me with the hope as my loved ones live and die far from me that the reunion is inevitable if we only abide in you.

My cross, your glory, for your power is made perfect in weakness and I am so very weak.

Ainsi soit-il.