Then he said to them all: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it. Luke 9:23-24 (NIV)
Horses drink on average twelve gallons of water every day. In the summer or on a day they have been ridden, they need more. With three horses in our pasture, that means thirty six gallons of water each day. While every stall has a five gallon bucket that is dumped and refilled every morning, we also have a fifty gallon water trough in the pasture. I was thrilled when the couple who board their horses at my house surprised me by plumbing the entire barn and putting a water spigot in each stall and one at the outside water trough. We still had one problem though. The water trough was always full of icky slimy algae. Its sides were covered in strings of green snot and more floated on top. I know I would not want to drink out of it, and I sure did not want my horse to either. Every few days, I would dump the water trough and scrub its sides with a stiff brush. After scrubbing and rinsing, the trough would look better, but in only a day or two, it would once again be green. I tried several different things to keep it clean. Chlorine rinses, leaving it out in the sun to dry, and tablets bought at the feed store were only temporary fixes. Sooner or later, I would come out to see the water once again foul. Someone suggested that I buy some goldfish for the water trough. So, I went to Wal-Mart and bought four cheap little goldfish and then, on impulse invested in an seven dollar sucker fish designed to eat algae. That will do it, I thought. I released the fish in the trough along with a small broken clay pot to seek shelter under. I had an outdoor pond once and learned how quickly egrets can eat your stock when they are held captive in a small container. I might as well have thrown the seven dollars out the car window because I never saw the sucker fish again. Within hours, he was gone. It was like he crawled right up the side of the water trough and went for a walk to another pond. Over the next couple of days, two of the goldfish died. Two survived, however. In less than a week, the water trough was clean as a whistle and has stayed that way. Those two little fish are doing their job one mouthful at a time. When I look down into that nice clear water, I think about the verses above. Sometimes, we think of taking up our cross, of being obedient to God as a complicated process. Yet, here, Jesus says, there is nothing complicated about it. It is simply something that we must do every day. Like my goldfish, which keep swimming and cleaning the water trough, I must take it one day, no, one moment at a time. And for every moment that I follow Him, I gain back so much more.