By Lysa TerKeurst
"Then Jesus said to his disciples, 'Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.'" Matthew 16:24 (NIV)
Last year, we logged over twenty hours in the car during the joy-filled excursion called family vacation. It was family bonding at its finest. Here's a little glimpse of the sweet conversations heard coming from the backseat.
Ashley: "Mom, Brooke just licked my hash brown! Ewwwwww!" Me: "Brooke, why would you lick your sister's hash brown, for heaven's sake?" Brooke: "Because my arm hurts." Me: "Oh. Well, that just makes complete sense."
And that's just one little exchange. There may have been 127 other instances when the soundtrack of my car-traveling life was, "Mom ... she poked me, and she is on my side, and she just spilled her drink, and she took my iPod."
And, on occasion, I may have wanted to jump in the backseat and remove every shred of candy from my little tweenager's hands and dump it out the window. But I really didn't want my mean girl or my mean mommy to come out on the family vacation.
Have you been there? Honestly, the last thing that pops into my mind in those frustrating moments is: What does Jesus say about this?
I wish it did. So I'm trying to think about this now, in a non-heated moment. That way I can be better prepared for the next time my mean girl tendencies surface.
According to our key verse today, Jesus says we must do three things. But these aren't three easy steps. They are three shifts of the heart: we have to deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow Him (Matthew 16:24).
Deny myself ... I have to deny myself the momentary satisfaction of the quick comeback, the rude response, and the full-out yelling. Over-sugared children can elicit craziness in a mama. Not that I have any personal experience with such things. No, not at all. And if you believe that, I've got some Easter candy off on the side of the road somewhere I could sell you.
Deny myself. It's hard. But it is the way with Jesus.
Then I must take up my cross ... My cross. Stop the blaming and finger-pointing and wishing everyone else would change and see my sinful reaction as a contribution to the problem at hand. I must take my issues to His cross and see my sin for what it is—sin. And I must be disgusted enough by my sin to truly want to do something about it.
Take up my cross. It's hard. But it is the way with Jesus.
Finally, I must follow Him ... Really follow Him. Follow who He is and how He is. I must close my mouth, pause long enough to let Him interrupt my eruption, and let His Spirit redirect me.
Yes, my children need to be corrected, but I can let the consequences scream so I don't have to. Only a calm mama can think of rational, reasonable consequences that instruct.
Follow who He is and how He is. It's hard. But it is the way with Jesus.
It's amazing how quickly my mean girl vanishes when I deny myself, admit my sin, and choose to let Jesus interrupt me.
Just don't be licking my hash brown if your arm starts hurting, okay? I have to draw the line somewhere.
Dear Lord, I don't want my mean girl to come out when I'm angered or aggravated. Give me the self-control to deny myself, stop blaming others, and choose to follow You. In Jesus' Name, Amen.