Someone once told me, “Any man worth his salt will spend his entire life working to become a better person, until one day, he won’t have to try anymore.” I didn’t know it at the time, but the reason they wouldn’t have to grind it out any longer is because they will be dead, passed on to meet their maker. At the time I didn’t understand what he was saying, but because I respected him so much I never forgot it. I just assumed that one day, when I became wiser, like him, it would finally come to me. Perhaps like a flash from a flood lamp that blinds me, or maybe it would be more like a slow moving train coming toward me from the opposite end of a very long tunnel, the light (or wisdom) would grow on me slowly. Regardless of how it would come I always remembered it in hopes that someday it would make sense.
Now, here I am years later, with a lifetime of wins and losses, struggles and triumphs, finally understanding what he meant. I can hardly translate it into words other than how he did, but I feel it every day. It is sometimes known as a feeling of triumph, while sometimes it is the feeling of exhaustion and defeat. Regardless, it always feels personal.
However, looking back at the type of man he was and the timing of when he said it to me, I believe I understand the specific meaning he meant to convey to me. What he meant was that every morning, from their first awaking moment, every man and woman will have to make the conscious decision to pick up their cross and follow Christ or not, just as Luke 9:23 says.
The choice of wording to me is interesting when we refer this decision to “grind it out”. This implies that the forces of the world are already set against us, just aching for a chance to lead us away from the cross. And it isn’t just one personal demon we will have to face, it is an entire onslaught. The fruit of the vine is hanging there tempting us to eat of it, promising an easier life; one filled with wisdom and easy sailing (Genesis 3:5). But we know this to be obviously false. There was a reason God told Adam and Eve not to eat of the fruit, because He knew what would lie ahead for all of humanity if they did. A life filled with hardship and misery. He didn’t want this for us, but gave us the right to choose anyway. And the choice put before Eve that day is the same one before us every morning before we wake up; do we choose God, or the world?
However, the choice is ours to make. We can choose to take up our crosses and continue to “grind it out” as the salt of the Earth (Matthew 5:13), or we can just give in to the temporary pleasures of the world. Just know this, that just as the fruit grows on the vine for only a season, so does Earthly pleasure. One day it will wither away, being no good to us, leaving us with an eternity of no hope. After all, we can only get out of Heaven that which we put into it (Matthew 6:20).
Over 10 years later I think I finally understand it, Mr. Giles Roberts. Your influence is still with me.