Two images that describe my life right now:
This moderately cheesy picture was the closest I could find to the image that God gave me during a 24 hour retreat in January. As I've mentioned earlier, the Holy Spirit told me to expect DEATH in 2011, and I entered my retreat expecting to delve more into this calling. During a concentrated time of meditation on the first evening, I asked the Lord to give me a vision of himself. Immediately, I pictured Jim Caveziel carrying the heavy burden of the cross. Slowly, he approached me, and I instinctively knelt down with my head to the ground, understanding that he was going to place the cross on my shoulders. Of course. Death is painful and involves suffering, even if it's just the pain of denying my own selfishness. Death this year would be a difficult journey.
Then something amazing happened. Jesus laid the cross on my back - but instead of the terrific weight that it should have been, it was unbelievably light. I had spent the first few weeks of January asking God for the strength and the courage to choose death, for the desire to cling to the cross, and for his help to persevere in the long road ahead of me. But when he put that cross on my shoulders, all I felt was freedom. I instantly and completely knew that I'd run this race to the finish because Jesus was running it with me. And he gives victory!
The other major theme of my life right now is simplicity. It's fascinating how, once you have committed to a course of action, the speed at which it suddenly engulfs your entire life. What I mean is this: I constantly find myself, in every situation, having an inner dialogue about the wasteful choices and inessential material goods surrounding me. Each day it becomes easier and easier to buy one less item at the grocery store, take the time to experiment with one more homemade recipe rather than rely on processed convenience, and to sacrifice something I want in order to give towards a bigger (and better) cause. I see the obvious connection between choosing to live simply and dying to my self, and I suppose that both of these images represent the same goal - freedom.
Believe it or not, it is actually freeing to not always go where your impulses lead. It is liberating to not feel attached to food, possessions, or problems (especially the problems that you've created!). And it helps to recognize that I'm not making these choices to feel better about myself or make our world a better place or any of those lofty moralistic ideals. My entire purpose is to fall more in love with Jesus and to more fully represent his love in every way.
Christ has shown me that what I once thought was valuable is worthless. Nothing is as wonderful as knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. I have given up everything else and count it all as garbage. All I want is Christ and to know that I belong to him. I could not make myself acceptable to God by obeying the Law of Moses. God accepted me simply because of my faith in Christ. All I want is to know Christ and the power that raised him to life. I want to suffer and die as he did, so that somehow I also may be raised to life. I have not yet reached my goal, and I am not perfect. But Christ has taken hold of me. So I keep on running and struggling to take hold of the prize. My friends, I don't feel that I have already arrived. But I forget what is behind, and I struggle for what is ahead. I run toward the goal, so that I can win the prize of being called to heaven. This is the prize that God offers because of what Christ Jesus has done.
- the apostle Paul's letter to the church at Philippi