Lately, I have been re-imagining my thoughts on the old words of Jesus, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” These are startling words, and I am not naturally keen to heed them. There is a countervailing spirit in this world that tells me to do everything opposite of self-denial. Just do what feels good is an idea I’ve had forever, though I can’t remember a single person ever saying it to me.
As a husband and a father, I am re-introduced to these words of Jesus countless times per day. I often say about marriage and parenting that “I love every moment of it.” While true in sum, there are moments that make me tired or frustrate me. Moments that are ripe for those ancient words of Jesus. Sometimes I don’t really want to do the dishes or change the diaper or play the same game again for the hundredth time. I see my wants stacked up against the need of the moment and I somehow manage to pin those wants to the back of the cross, Jesus on the other side, that look of longing in his eye. I suffer these little deaths—these tiny crucifixions—every day.
But how? The answer lies beyond me.
Indeed, I am constantly being sustained by my invisible Master, down to the very molecules that stitch me together, moment by moment. And, at each of these moments, I am given a choice to stay the course or turn myself away to some other love. While I believe in free will, I also understand that it is greatly impaired. It is not enough to merely want something. There is more to it than that. I want God, but I also want a lot of other things that are not God. I am called by Jesus to make a denial that I simply do not have the power to make on my own. It is as if weights have been cast upon me and I have been thrown to sea. I can fight the sinking, but I cannot save myself.
My only recourse is to ask for help and trust that it will come.
And it does come.
At all of my weakest moments I find the incredible power of God working in my favor. It is in these critical moments that I find that I have been doused in his love and set aflame by his mercy—a mercy which comes down upon me like a thunderbolt. This fire animates my zeal for him again, to know and to love him, and to do the daily combat of prayer and faith—and diaper changes and dishes!
Though I struggle beneath the weight of my sins, I am propped up like the staff of Moses, but by a neoteric wood. It is the same wood from which our Savior himself once hung. But Jesus did not stay there. Nor shall I. He came down and entered the earth and then he subjected it to himself again when he tore it asunder and took to the sky.
I share in this divine power as a child of God, but it is not my own. What did he mean when he bid his sons and daughters to exercise dominion over the earth? He meant for us to create and cast a heavenward vision like a net over the teeming life before us. But instead we went inward. If only we could hold the wind in our fist! We believed the malicious lie that God was holding out on us. And so we missed out on the better part. But only for a time.
What terror and longing must have been felt by our first parents as they paced through the garden that one last time—on through those flaming swords and into a world twisted and warped by the inglorious vision of (now) mere mortals.
This world we inhabit is lacking so much. This great lack is the same thing that so often seems to bind the will and propel us out and away from the one who formed us and called us into being. We have a lot working against us. It can be overwhelming at times.
But lest I forget it: “He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.” This is the salient point. I cling to it. I believe it. And when I struggle to believe it, I ask God to help me do it. It is true, and the true things in life are what carry the real power and will to get us on to our final destination.
I like to think, though I have no proof for it at all, that walking into heaven will be like returning to the fiery gates of paradise, the very same ones our first parents left so long ago in their shame. The angels will lift their flaming swords, and they will be smiling at us. We will enter a place almost entirely forgotten, but altogether familiar.
Charlie is a mid-thirties guy who resides in sunny Florida with his small (but growing!) family. Charlie holds a B.A. in Religion and Apologetics and works in the financial services industry by day, writing about recovery, the Catholic Faith and Taming the Wild places in the human heart in his spare time. His writing has been featured in places like the Catholic stand, SpiritualDirection.com, Catholic Exchange and in print at Shalom Tidings. Charlie serves as the Managing Editor for Taming the Wilds and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.