When Jesus told me to take up my cross and follow Him, He didn’t really say where we were going. I’m sure when David surrendered to God, he never saw himself standing in front of Goliath with just a sling and some stones. When my sweet friend, Ileahna, decided to follow Jesus, I don’t think she knew she was following Him to hours upon hours of classes and studying to learn how to heal God’s people. I’m almost positive that when my friend, Cory, accepted Christ, he had no idea that spending his free time with smelly sixth grade boys was part of the deal. I don’t think my mentor and nurse friend, Aubri, knew God’s call would ever be for her to send middle of the night Facebook messages full of medical advice and spiritual encouragement to a girl all the way in Uganda. When my mom fell in love with Jesus, I don’t think she knew she would also fall in love with spending her Wednesday nights at Dairy Queen having Bible study with a bunch of punk teenagers. Nineteen years ago when my dad sat in a hospital holding his newborn baby girl, I don’t think it crossed his mind that God would ask him to let her move to Africa one day. When we really follow Jesus, He takes us to places we never expect. When an eight year old Natalie Brown knelt at the alter in that tiny Baptist church in Texas and said yes to Jesus, I don’t think Africa ever crossed her mind.
When Jesus called me to take up my cross and follow Him, I didn’t know I was following Him here. I didn’t know I was following Him to unloading cabbages on a farm, where I would end my day caked in mud, sitting on the ground, eating rice and beans with my hands. Jesus never told me He was taking me to a tiny mud home where I would hold and kiss a tiny baby who is too weak to smile. I never really asked Jesus to take me to a disorganized Ugandan hospital where I would whisper prayers for my HIV+ and severely malnourished friend as she winces in pain.
Sometimes I end my days with dirty hands and a broken heart, and with tears streaming down my face, I ask God “Why?” When He said to leave everything and follow Him, He wasn’t kidding. He so graciously reminds me “Take up Your cross, and follow Me.” Natalie, leave your mom and dad, leave your sisters, leave your puppy and your Mexican food and your friends; leave everything easy and comfortable and follow Me. Follow Me to the darkness and let me shine My Light through you. Follow Me to brokenness and pour out My love. Follow Me and trust that I’m good even when you’ve seen too much evil to bear. Follow Me and fall in love with Me and let Me carry you when you can’t walk anymore.
Jesus, you are good and sovereign and I trust you, even when things seem so unjust. I will not lose heart. I will keep following you to the unexpected. I will see You in the messy places. I will take up my cross and follow, wherever you lead.