“Then he said to all,
If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself
and take up his cross daily and follow me.
For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it,
but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.
What profit is there for one to gain the whole world
yet lose or forfeit himself?”
When I was six years old I told my parents I wanted to play soccer. So, my mom and dad signed me up for a recreational team. We had bright yellow jerseys that year and our team name was The Hunters. When the season started I began to learn the rules and basic skills of soccer. That season I found a passion and joy for soccer. I especially enjoyed playing the position of goalkeeper. I grew in my confidence as a six year old soccer player. I knew this was the sport I wanted to do next year, and the year after that, and…forever!
The last game of our season was against the toughest team in the league. It was the scene from a sport movie; it was raining outside, there was more brown mud then yellow on our jerseys, and all of our parents were cheering us on from the sidelines. I was the goalkeeper for our team. Towards the end of the first quarter the opposing team got a breakaway. My teammates tried to chase down the girl, but no one caught up to her. I went out a dove for the ball—I had not sense of fear at the time—I dove and caught the ball. I stopped a goal! However, the opposing teammate missed the ball at kicked me right in the face. I blacked out. I remember sitting on the bench, my dad holding an icepack and my coach being infuriated about the situation.
When next year season signups opened up, my dad asked me if I wanted to play. I said no. I loved soccer, but during the last game of the season prior, I not only got kicked in the face with a soccer cleat, but also kicked in the face with reality. The reality of knowing I can and will get hurt playing soccer scared me. It was a harsh reality for me to realize.
I did not play soccer that following season. However, after a year break, and with my dad’s support I was able to try again. I ended up playing competitive soccer for twelve years and loved it. I did get hurt again… multiple times. I even chipped a bone playing, but my attitude and definition about hurt changed. I no longer saw it as something terrible. I saw my initial fear of getting hurt a challenge. If I could be rid of my fear, I would be a stronger player. I was not going to allow my fear to take away my joy for soccer.
In many ways learning how to take up my cross daily, in my faith life, has been similar. The first time my faith was shaken, I became scared. I also became scared the first time someone hurt me. I questioned my faith and whether or not taking up my cross daily was worth it. I desire to be in relationship with God, but being in this relationship does not exempt me from hurt in this earthly life. Similar to my experience with soccer, I have learned to find the cross in both good and painful situations. I have learned that spiritual growth and goodness can be outcomes of hurtful and scary times. For me, taking up my cross daily, means letting go of my fears and allowing God to transform my fears into something beautiful each day. During this time of lent, may we find the courage and strength to take up our crosses each day, following Jesus.