Pain is awful.
I've suffered through sickness, surgery, unmedicated labor, and natural childbirth. Not so long ago, even the pain from a measly splinter in my hand left me feeling faint and queasy. I feel pathetically weak when it comes to enduring pain.
It's no surprise then that Jesus' words in today's Gospel, Matthew 10:37-39, make me uneasy. Taking up my cross and losing my life aren't high on my life's "bucket list." I've never wanted to be a martyr. No part of the fearlessness, the suffering offered to Christ, the "choosing joy in the face of death" excites me.
Instead, my pulse quickens and my stomach twists in knots. I feel anxiety instead of holy courage. I cannot imagine being selfless enough to surrender everything, brave enough to look death in the face and choose Christ anyway, in love with the Lord enough to give up anything He asked of me.
I think I'm too weak, too attached, too cowardly to suffer and lose my life for His sake.
It's the paradox of the cross and life with Christ: to fully live I must die. To gain everything, I must give it all up. To follow Him, I must leave behind all that I think gives me life in order to find Him Who is Life.
But I do love the Lord, and I want to follow Him.
When I choose trust over fear, surrender over grasping to things less magnificent than Jesus, selflessness over selfishness, I've chosen the way of the cross. When I trust Him with my life, I find it's not so awful anymore to take up my daily cross.