Dignify and Deploy 11: Kingdom and Cross
‘If God’s got me nailed to the cross for my good, I’m not going to climb down off the cross and wreck the whole purpose of this painful experience. I’ll just go through it, until He’s done with me.’ John Wimber
Wimber chided me a few times for wearing a cross. He brought his disdain for religious ornaments into the Vineyard; He didn’t know quite what he was getting when he invited LA-based Desert Stream Ministries to join him at the movement’s hub in Anaheim. We brought several huge crosses we used for ministry and placed them in meeting rooms around the facility. Yikes. We provoked his cheerfully irreligious ire then learned discretion.
While John may have not appreciated Christian symbols, he excelled in living them. The cross he refused to wear he bore. His mentor Gunner Payne prepped him for a crucified life. No stranger to suffering, Gunner trained John well in how to suffer well. He prepped John to not say ‘yes’ to Jesus if he didn’t want to give everything to Him.
The first sacrifice Jesus asked of John was his music career, a lucrative one and the way he supported his wife and four young kids. Carol and he took all of his music and records and arrangements and left them at the city dump. Broke and approaching Christmas, John was commissioned by the Righteous Brothers to arrange their Christmas album (a dream of John’s). He refused. His life was in Jesus’ hands. Giving up his music career was a decisive and slow death.
Wojtyla understood the cross through how his father lived family losses with dignity. Father and son shared an understanding of their nation as a living witness of crucifixion and resurrection. Karol was born a free Pole, entered adulthood under Nazi rule, then endured a decades-long attempt of the Soviets to strangle Polish identity, including her Catholicism. George Weigel writes eloquently: ‘One must come to read again in 20th century Poland the witness of Jesus’ cross and resurrection.’ Wojtyla understood the suffering he shared with his countrymen as ‘always bearing in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body’ (2 Cor. 4: 10).
Karol Wojtyla’s crucified life drew inspiration from Carmelite mysticism: the deeply personal, cross-centered spirituality of St. John of the Cross and St. Teresa of Avila. These two Catholic reformers lived and wrote (St. John’s ‘Dark Night of the Soul’ was the subject of Wojtyla’s doctoral dissertation) on spousal union with Christ. Jesus invites us to offer ourselves wholly to Himself without the props of high concepts or deep feelings. What may be the perceived lack of ‘Presence’ witnesses to this abandonment. We come to know Him in the ‘dark night’ of our failed attempts to know Him. Faith is a free fall.
Might Wojtyla have experienced something of this ‘dark night’ as a young man in conflict with his vocation? Impassioned as an actor/playwright/activist, he wrestled with a deeper call to the priesthood. One of his drama mentors fought long and hard with him, insisting that his gifts would be best expressed on the stage. Besides, Nazis had begun to strangle the Church: seminaries had gone underground and activist priests were targeted for concentration camps.
Wojtyla heeded the still small voice and died to his dream. He began prep for the role of a lifetime.
“Help us follow Your lead, Jesus. The servant is not greater than his Master. Death unto life is always the way. May we discover the rhythm of the cross in the particulars of our lives. May we not bypass suffering for lesser kingdoms. Help us to suffer losses well for the rule and reign of Your Kingdom.
Come Holy Spirit, liberate what is true and beautiful from what debases us. May we not settle but aspire to the dignity of our sexual humanity. May we grow into ‘mature expressions of the gift’ by helping others do the same. Deployed to dignify, we ‘harness the John force.’”