As I read through Paul's letters, repeatedly I see him describe how the Christian participates in Jesus's death, His burial, His resurrection, His glory. This idea of participation has always intrigued and mystified me. How, exactly, do I participate in these acts of God? And if I do them, then why exactly did Jesus have to do them? I thought the whole idea was for Him to do them, so I wouldn't have to.
But of course, that's wrong. The whole point in Jesus's doing these things is to do them first, so that I can follow. If He did not die, I cannot. If He was not buried, I cannot be. If He was not resurrected, then I can never be.
Still, my question remains: How can I participate? What does that look like in real living?
As I perused old blog posts (vain bloggers do this sometimes), I came upon this precious hymn:
Go to Dark Gethsemane
Go to dark Gethsemane, ye that feel the tempter's power.
Your Redeemer's conflict see; watch with him one bitter hour,
Turn not from His grief away; learn of Jesus Christ to pray.
Follow to the judgment hall; view the Lord of life arraigned.
O, the wormwood and the gall! O, the pangs His soul sustained!
Shun not suffering, shame, or loss; learn of Him to bear the cross.
Calvary's mournful mountain climb; there adoring at His feet,
Mark the miracle of time, God's own sacrifice complete:
"It is finished!" - Hear him cry; learn of Jesus Christ to die.
Early hasten to the tomb where they laid his breathless clay:
All is solitude and gloom; who hath taken Him away?
Christ is risen! He meets our eyes. Savior, teach us so to rise.
And I was struck at my failure, my absolute failure lately, at "learning of Him to bear the cross." The crosses God asks us to bear are often onerous, tiresome, difficult -- even horrible. But they are nothing, nothing, to what Jesus bore.
God places a trial on my shoulders, and I squirm. I complain. I cry out and beg for Him to remove it. I tell Him it's unfair, or unkind, as if He's broken some promise to me. I truly feel this way. I feel this way now. But I know in the middle of my complaint that I am not learning how to bear my cross as Jesus did. I'm not participating in His suffering. I'm refusing to participate. That is no way to live the Christian life.
I do long to do this better, to hear Him say to me someday, "Well done, child." Certainly He is pleased with our acts of kindness, words of love, our forgiveness of others. But more difficult yet is how we handle His trials, in our hearts. My greatest failures occur there, unseen.
"Shun not suffering, shame, or loss. Learn of Him to bear the cross."