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How Much Can You Lift?

While working out I was pressing more weight than I should have. In my mind I am still in my twenties. I started my third set … 5… 6 … halfway through the last rep my arms decided enough was enough. I was abruptly reminded that the half-century is in my rear-view mirror by several years. Seeing no other option, I shifted a little to the right, dropped the weight and fell off the bench. Now if this had occurred at home, that would have been the end of the story. However, I was blessed to enjoy this humbling experience at the local gym at a busy time between two very fit young guys.

When I consider the cross of Jesus, I reflect on what he carried. I think of the weight of the flogging. How with each successive blow his strength was challenged as the oppressive whip flew and took another abrasive gouge out of his back. How, after hours of interrogation, after hours of public brutality and mocking, he makes his final ascent up Golgotha carrying the weight of his final physical oppression. His physical body finally gives out and he falls under the weight of the cross.

Reflecting back to the beginning of it all, God said let there be light, and it was so. Even in our most imaginative attempts,we are woefully unprepared to understand the power of creation and the power of the one, who SPOKE all things into existence. John tells us: “In the beginning was the word and the word WAS God, and the word was WITH God. The word became flesh and dwelt among us.” We believe that Jesus is God, and as John suggests, the creator who spoke, and what once did not exist, came into being.

Have you ever undergone a trial that was in your power to stop? What did you do, and maybe more importantly, why? To bear a trial that is beyond our control is one thing. We have no choice. But what if you had the ability to change it, to stop it? When you walk in dark places of gloom and despair, and the light switch is right at your fingertips to remove the oppression, the desire to turn on the light is ever pressing.

Having the power to turn on the light with merely a word, Jesus walked through the trial. The trial of childhood, the trial of teaching the kingdom, the trial of insolent rejection, and finally the trial of the most egregious violence that one human being could inflict on another. Just think for a moment, if you were the creator of all things, and a Roman guard came and hit you across the face, let alone all the other atrocities Jesus suffered that day. How would you react?

All of these were the trials of Jesus life, but I don’t believe that this was the full burden that he carried: the unseen weight of all the lies that man had chosen to believe, the arrogance and pride that we held up as a shield, as we shook our fist at God. All of this was heaped up to obscure the perfect and pure light that God had created in the beginning. I believe that the weight of the burden of Jesus was the power he kept in check, the patient endurance of all the darkness of the cross and finally the last battle… “Father forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.” The one that spoke light into existence could simply speak the word, and the darkness of humanity would be obliterated in the glorious light of God’s presence.

To save humanity however, Jesus chose to walk across the dark room and turn on the light. He walked the path that we would be able to follow, if we could only trust in him and step out of the dark void we had created for ourselves. Every moment I live in this world and fail to show kindness, to offer forgiveness, or to be loving, I look back to the cross and catch the gaze of Jesus, and I am humbled far more than an embarrassing stumble at the gym. My savior waits patiently for me to be humbled, so that he can lift me up, so that I no longer rely on my own strength.

I dropped the weight, because my physical body could not endure what my pride said I could. Sometimes in my life I feel like the microscopic slice of the world I inhabit threatens to crush me. I want to at times lash out and take the metaphoric whip that is oppressing me and use it on the source of my oppression. It is then I turn to Jesus, as he reaches out his hand and says wait and be patient. I am far stronger than I could ever imagine, when I rely on his strength. And though the burden that I carry is unspeakably smaller than his, he is patient with me and lends me the strength to walk in the path, that he walked and to live in this life with the tools of faithfulness, kindness, and love and to truly turn the other cheek.

I find it embarrassing how often my patience becomes exhausted, only to find out that I missed something critical that could have changed the situation completely. I am not always successful living in the perfect image that Jesus left for me to follow, and I think that is probably ok. Jesus patiently helps me back up and reminds me to just keep following in the path, that he has already prepared, and to grow in the patience and steadfastness that he lived to make that path possible.