Remember this? Well, go back to it and refresh your mind, because this post is a continuation of that one.
At this point in my journey, it is quite clear to me that if I must enter into my ultimate bliss, I must discern my personal cross, and pick it up; knowing fully well that beyond it’s agonizing wounds and death lie my personal paradise.
I might eventually drop the phrase ‘my present personal cross’ for something that’s more meaningful to non-religious minds. For now, let me at least clarify what it means to me: On one hand, I would describe my present personal cross as anything that I find absolutely distasteful, something I loathe, but which is inextricably linked to my bliss; something I must endure in order to enter into my joy. On the other hand, I would describe it as anything I enjoy, but which must be sacrificed for my ultimate bliss.
I also think that it is a very personal matter: my cross is completely unique to me — thus my use of the phrase, ‘…personal cross.’ It’s even possible that one man’s cross may be another man’s bliss.
In any case, I’ve been asking myself what my personal cross could possibly be? What is that ‘hell’ I must pass through — that bitter cup I must drink — if I must enter into my bliss? Is it in my future? Is it in my past? Is it in my present? Whatever it is, I would love to embrace it and get it over with.
And I think I have fairly good idea on where to begin the inquiry; I’m not too sure yet; but we’ll see.
I’m a fairly reclusive and shy person who hates traveling.
I have serious trust issues; I find it hard to trust anyone, or delegate highly sensitive tasks. Now, don’t misunderstand me here: I don’t present these qualities as negatives; as a matter of fact, they’ve really helped me become very successful in life and ministry. My reclusiveness and aversion to traveling has allowed me to develop a highly cerebral paradigm of ministry that has enabled me coordinate a global outreach from the comfort of my study! That’s not bad at all. What essentially is an inability to trust anyone has motivated me to build an extremely self-sufficient one-man-squad type ministry that allows me to achieve with less than ten people what many ministries cannot do with congregations of thousands. My strong aversion to delegate sensitive tasks has resulted in a perfectionist control of the smallest details, resulting in a very efficient ministry machinery that can run infinitely on auto-pilot mode.
I must pause here and express my deepest gratitude to the most devoted, exceptionally gifted and talented, as well as sacrificially loyal team any man can ever be favored with. You guys know yourselves. Thanks a million. And to God be all the glory for the stunning feats we’ve accomplished.
So, as you can see, I can camp here and cruise pretty comfortably for the rest of my life. I’m very comfortable in my own skin, and pretty cool about myself.
It’s just that now, I feel a tug within to expand my comfort zone; to push the envelope; to expand my inner space to accommodate more realities; of course, with the relevant filters. Call it an invitation from higher forces, if you may.
Intuitively, I sense severe challenges, discomfort, and pain in that direction. The thought of it often makes my heart skip; because I’m not under any illusions regarding the difficulties ahead; difficulties that I sense might constitute my present and personal cross. Yet, I also feel it’s the right direction for me at this time.
I feel quite good with moving in that direction. I love the challenge that beckons; it feels quite exciting. It may not be very comfortable and easy at first, but I’m willing to push through the challenge to get to a new level, to see and bask in new realities.
From what I can see, it involves tremendous risks, loneliness, misunderstanding, criticisms, rejection, mistakes, insults, and their likes. But, rather than resist these, I must willingly embrace them as I move in the direction of my inner vocation, and gratefully harness their hidden bliss as they come. I must step out of my old wineskin of limiting paradigms, to receive the blissful new wine of higher and more glorious realities. The die is cast now and I must proceed with courage.
It’s entirely up to you at this point if you want to reflect on your own present and personal cross as we proceed. I hope you do, though.
In practical terms, here’s what the picture looks like in my case:
First of all, traveling is a nightmare for me. In fact, I’ve often said that as far as my ministry is concerned, traveling is the major cross I have to carry. One reason is that I hate to spend even a single night away from my family. It’s a very lonely and painful experience for me. Another reason is that I hate packing; it is so stressful I could pay a huge sum to have someone do it for me. I could spend a whole month ahead of a trip agonizing over what clothes to take and what not to take; how to fit in everything into my suitcase. A third reason is that I hate passing through airports; I often wish I could just vanish from my house and appear instantly at my destination without passing through the gruesome ordeal of flying and jumping through the airports’ hoops.
So, when I say that I intend to accommodate more foreign mission trips in this year’s itinerary, you can appreciate how that pushes the borders of my comfort zone.
With regards to risk taking, I plan to write more openly; sharing my thoughts and feelings with more openness and courage. This is a very uncomfortable style for me, as I would rather hide behind pithy comments and sphinx-like wisecracks. However, because I’ve learnt that my readers enjoy a more open and personal approach from me, I intend to take the risk of greater personal exposure in my writing.
I also plan to move in the opposite direction to my highly reclusive nature and engage in more face to face encounters with new people in diverse conversations and learning experiences. Here I really look forward to the Wildfire Discussions and Meetups currently being scheduled in several cities around the world. I resolutely intend to shun the pulpit/pew construct, and go more with the interactive style. I’ve vowed not to hide behind the lectern any more when facing new audiences. So, be your brothers keeper here, and call me out in any meeting if you notice I’m trying to hide! God help me.
When it comes to the matter of delegating sensitive tasks, I’m backed up against the wall — I have more demands from clients, readers, audiences, and communities around the world, than I could ever handle. So, what other choices do I really have, other than to let my helpers take on more responsibilities? Considering the nature of my work, this is a high risk area for me, but as I’ve already wondered out loud, what other choices do I have? If I perish, I perish.
Finally, I plan to refrain from judging, controlling, or making rules for others — even if I die trying!
I have no doubts that pushing these borders will be trying, but I’m set for the adventure and can feel the thrill bubbling within. As you can imagine, I see my present personal cross in terms of those tough and painful choices required to expand my comfort zone. Here, I can draw inspiration from Jesus Christ Himself: He was absolutely comfortable with being God’s only begotten Son in heaven. But He wanted more; He wanted a kingdom; He wanted brothers; He wanted more people like Him–so, He had to go through the painful process of human incarnation, life on earth, and a cruel death in order to realize His glorious bliss.
Clearly, the best things of this world, the highest thrills and bliss, are reserved for risk takers; those willing to expand their comfort zones. And I absolutely don’t plan to be left out.