22 August 2011
To Walk the Lonesome Valley - But By Ourselves?
"If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me." Matthew 16.24
I have always loved this spiritual - but today I wonder if its message is entirely correct.
Jesus' call to his followers sounds harsh: deny yourself, take up your cross and follow me. Dietrich Bonhoeffer put it this way: "Whenever Jesus calls us, he bids us 'Come and die.'" And, to be sure, no professing theologian of the cross would want to pretend the cross is not the destination for all our dreams of glory and self-righteous justification. But must we walk the lonesome valley all alone? I think not.
It has always been the responsibility of God's people to walk together on all roads, be they to the top of the highest mountain or down to the depths of the darkest valley. True, no one can see our most inner struggles, our darkest thoughts and secrets, but if we're honest, we know they're there. We know that our neighbors quail and quake and tremble and go through sleepless nights and worry and fret and fear. We know that those around us are tempted and pulled in many directions at once, and that sometimes what seems the most holy, most righteous path ends up being the road into the valley itself. How do we know this? Because we ourselves are caught in the same struggle, the same fear, the same temptation - we also walk the dark roads of human existence, just by being human.
At the very least, we know for certain that one other will walk this road with us. He has, after all, asked us to follow him along the way. I have a feeling that, if needed, he will wait for us as we struggle to bear the cross and follow after him.