How many times have I told Him?
How many times have I told God that I do not want to be a martyr?
There are some Christians out there who say, without a doubt (I’ve never understood this), that they would take a bullet before denying Jesus. They would lay down anything, sacrifice whatever they most held dear, to avoid denying that precious relationship. Growing up saturated in a Christian home, a Christ-centered church, with Christ-honoring relationships all around me and involved in all sorts of ministries for Jesus . . . you would think I would be one of those Christians.
But I have never pretended that I could be a martyr.
On the contrary, I have begged God not to ask me to be a martyr.
When I was fifteen, I bought a book from our local “Bible book store” called I Would Die for You, about a boy who felt like he was called to be a martyr for Jesus. He ended up dying from a sickness he contracted on a mission trip when he was fifteen. For some reason, it sounded to me like an inspiring book at the time. When I finished reading it, I was terrified. I kept on seeing “signs” that I too was going to be a martyr. I remember a song playing on shuffle on my I-pod immediately after finishing the book, and it was all about dying for Christ. I recall seeing the number 41 shining through the blinds in my room and being suddenly convinced that was the year I was going to die (this is what anxiety does to you, folks). I laugh about all this now, but then, I could not have been more scared.
Today, I am not scared of losing my literal life for the sake of following Jesus, because there is no imminent, known threat.
However, today, and every day for ten months and counting, I am scared of losing something very important to me. No…I am scared of purposely leaving behind something very important to me. I am scared to perform my own execution, in effect. How…can…I…do…that?
How many times have I demanded that He give me the answer to my most pressing question in this journey? It is a question that, if answered, could at least anesthetize me before surgery. Why must He allow suffering to go unexplained, in any instance?
You know that verse in James that says perseverance must finish its work, so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything? Do you know what I’m discovering the end of perseverance is? Sacrifice. Martyrdom. The laying of Isaac on the altar. The loss upon loss upon loss in Job’s life. The agonizing weight of the destructive thoughts and actions of every single person in the lifespan of humanity nailed to Jesus nailed to the cross.
You must die to live. You must sacrifice. You must trust though it seems like foolishness. You must be born again. That’s the Christian story.
It is a story reflective of all those good, sacrificial, heroic stories we all know and love.
But when it comes down to it, being a hero is a calling I am not sure I can live. That is why I could not write anything about those epic questions I asked in a failed blog post attempt. I was going to write all about how we are all the heroes of our own story, so we need to stay in our stories and keep fighting because it will be worth it in the end. But I found myself endlessly frustrated, tormented by my doubts.
I am still doubting. But the thing about doubt is that it always contains at least one crumb of belief.
So here is the space for my crumb of belief to speak:
It was the joy set before Him that convinced Jesus that dying a miserable death was worth it.
For the love of all that is good and true and hopeful and lovely and pure and beautiful, help us all to see the joy set before us as we endure our personal battles, as we persevere in a progressive world (both within and outside of Christianity) that shows us alternative scripts that seem to offer so much more joy, so many more answers, and so much more peace than the lives we are living. Help us to rest at the various crossroads in our lives for as long as it takes to become the heroes we were born to be.