Jesus called the crowd together with His disciples, and said to them, “If anyone wishes to follow Me [as My disciple], he must deny himself [set aside selfish interests], and take up his cross [expressing a willingness to endure whatever may come] and follow Me [believing in Me, conforming to My example in living and, if need be, suffering or perhaps dying because of faith in Me]. For whoever wishes to save his life [in this world] will [eventually] lose it [through death], but whoever loses his life [in this world] for My sake and the gospel’s will save it [from the consequences of sin and separation from God]. For what does it benefit a man to gain the whole world [with all its pleasures], and forfeit his soul? For what will a man give in exchange for his soul and eternal life [in God’s kingdom]?
Two years ago, I had met an older man on the college campus I work at. He had invited me and serval others out to his church’s annual “Bring Your Neighbor” day service.
After service the church had a tailgate barbecue across the street. About halfway into the festivities, I had agreed to participate in a Bible study to learn more about Jesus Christ. I connected with a few women there and felt strangely comfortable around around.
Perhaps a week later, I was study the Bible with three women from their church on campus outside of the Business and Science building. What impressed me was how far these women drove just to help me understand the Bible.
Our studies were so interesting and engaging that I wanted to become a disciple of Jesus Christ. Unfortunately, when the studies surrounding what sin was came I grew uncomfortable and distant. I struggled and wrestled with giving up my sin. What challenged me most was Mark 8:34-35.
After sometime thinking it through, I quit my studies with those women. Initially, I did not know that I would have to give up things in my life to follow Jesus before studying. Those women never demanded that I should, but I felt the grip of God’s Word. I had convinced myself that God wanted to take everything “good” away from me. “I worked hard for this life. How could try to take it away?” I questioned. I had been through a lot in my life and had worked hard to get where I was going.
See, I grew up in one the most dangerous cities in America and so I grew up a fighter. I am a fighter by nature. I would fight my family, myself and I would even fight God. In high school I had everything planned. Being an elected president of my class, being nominated as most likely to succeed from my peers, being a part of my school’s debate team, ignited a great passion for law. My 7-year plan was fully in effect, the day I received my acceptance letter to the only college that I had applied to. I was set to start during the summer but due to a financial issue, my entry was delayed a few months. Super impatient yet highly determined to keep my 7-year plan on track, I found myself in an interview at some random university. Shortly after, I was living on campus and already in great standing with many of my professors. A month later, I was asked to leave the campus. I grew bitter at watching my friends graduate before me. I felt like my life was snatched away from me. I became rebellious and angry. Attacking those who offended and/or attacked me. I would argue with those who’d pick an argument with me. A literal firecracker.
The truth is, the same furry attitude followed me into my Bible studies. I sat across the room from one the women that I was studying with and read to her a letter of why I no longer wanted to study the Bible. I could feel her sadness, but that did not stop me. I was finished with God and His rules. Little did I know, He was not through with me and my attitude.
In the days, weeks and months to come, God began dealing with me and showing me things. Within that time, I became a foster mother of two of my younger cousins. Caring for those girls made life make sense. Caring for someone (let alone two people) shifted my perspective on God. I was 22 years, forced to give up my wants and desires to ensure the safety of my dearly loved baby cousins.
There were days, where I hear them praying for me in their room or at dinner. We’d walked to school everyday during the week and pray before entering the building. We prayed for two things every time and both prayers were answered. I quickly saw that I needed them more than they needed me.
I began to read my Bible and to pray, daily. After 6 months, I reached out to a woman from my Bible studies and asked if we could resume our time together. I was surprised at her willingness to continue our studies even after how horribly I treated her. Without hesitation or excuse she agreed with her arms out stretched, welcoming me back to church.
During the second round of our studies, I noticed this woman’s behavior with me. I would come to her loud, irate and in an aggressive tone, venting about my day. The woman would sit with a calm expression on her face, holding a patient posture. When I would stop talking, she would direct me to scripture that always would always help me. There were moments where I wouldn’t like her calm responses.
What I was looking for in our friendship was a hype man— someone who get as loud as me and be as angry as I was. In my family and friend groups, we had one another’s back this way. If they were upset, I was upset. If I didn’t like someone, we all did not like that person. I was expecting to for this woman to share in my worldly practice of gossip and malice. That’s how my family and I would fight for one another and prove our love towards one another. This woman was different. She fought for me in a different way. She wrestled in prayer for. She challenged me in scripture. She was there for me. All of which were foreign to me, a young woman from the hood.
When she moved away to another city, I had to start searching the Scriptures for myself. I started fighting for my relationship with Jesus Christ more. Little by little, I began to release my grasp on my old life. I loosened the hands from things that I thought mattered. It felt as though I was losing my identity. I hated feeling like a punk or appearing weak before all who knew me. But it was something I had to do in order to follow Christ.
I found hope in losing my life. I was baptized shortly after my second round of studies started. For every friend I lost in the world, I gained more. For the family I lost, in following Christ I gained a family of believers in their place! My life could not have been made new until I surrendered my nasty attitude and my life over to Christ Jesus.
My encouragement for you reading: there is hope at CROSS. What will you have to give up to to walk in the life that God has called you to live?