Thursday after Ash Wednesday
“…let him renounce himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.”
I am one of those people who adds my two cents to a discussion – even if I’m just walking by and I overhear the topic (yikes!). Actually, I like to add my four cents, not just two. If a discussion is at hand and there is silence for three seconds, I feel the need to fill the space with my words. If someone is talking and I realise they have outdated information or misinformation, I am quick to let them know the facts, and my opinion of whatever the topic is. I have stated throughout the years that even if I don’t have a clue about the issue/topic, I still have an opinion I am willing and wanting to share. With nearly 35 years of marriage, I still ask my husband his opinion/thoughts on everything, for example, ‘what is your favorite restaurant for seafood?’ when I know he is a thinker and doesn’t share a thought or opinion unless he is sure he has thought it through and is giving the correct answer, otherwise his reply will be “I don’t know.” I used to actually get upset when he said that, replying, “how can you NOT know? If you don’t know what you think, who does?” (this was before attending leadership and communication courses in personalities, communication styles, the enneagram, DISC, thinkers/feelers, etc.).
I think you get the picture I’ve painted of myself, and I imagine you have a family member or friend who fits an annoying description. In the last 25 years, I have intentionally worked on letting go of this constant ‘need’ to add to, inform, spread truth and to take over when I can do it better; which benefits everyone (in my mind at least).
I’ve just described one of the little crosses that I carry and am working daily to lay down at Christ’s feet. I’m still not sure if this cross is of my own doing or if the ‘cross’ that God has for me to carry is the DAILY laying it (pride) down, but either way, it is a cross that I am quite aware of. And it’s not the only one.
In an Ascension Press bible study with Dr. Edward Sri that I participated in two or three years ago, I was struck by these words that Dr. Sri wrote: “Because we live in a fallen world, there is going to be suffering in life. None of us can run away from it. When God permits us to face a certain cross that means He wants us to encounter Him there, precisely in the challenge, difficulty or trial. He does not want us to run away. For, if we try to avoid the crosses that God allows us to face, we will only find heavier ones. Because Jesus is not waiting for us there; those are the crosses we will have to carry more on our own.”
What is your cross made of, the one that today’s gospel instructs us to pick up DAILY, the one God has for you that He WILL help you carry if you ask? Health issues? A difficult marriage? A difficult relationship with your parents/children? With your boss or coworkers or those you manage? Is it weight related? Financial? Do you have anger issues? Depression? Unforgiveness? The list is close to endless, isn’t it? Yes, God has given each of us a cross that I believe is made up of more than one issue. When we carry that cross daily with love (with God), we are able to carry it in a manner that doesn’t cripple or kill us. Yet we seem to pick up crosses not meant for us to carry – heavy heavy crosses. And we carry them for days, weeks, months, years; even decades. These are the crosses that strip us of joy and relationship with Him. These crosses cripple and kill aspects of our life and the lives of those we love.
On 18 February, the gospel was from Mark and was this same topic. Sharon Soo shared these words, which spoke volumes to me as well,
“….I was once told by a spiritual director that I had to be led by love when following Christ. That without love, all my faith, and works of faith, would be for nothing. She warned that I would burn out if I tried to do this without love. She was 100% right! Because I did try to take up my cross without love. I pushed hard. I persevered. I prayed. But I ended up tired, burned out and resentful, with not very much to show for it….”
Reminds me of the classic song, ‘He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother’. Love. That’s it – that’s always it. When we carry a cross WITH love, we are able to carry it and not grow weary because we are not carrying it alone. In this sacramental carrying we find un-understandable joy and peace. We find God on a whole new level.
It’s the day after Ash Wednesday. What a perfect time to embrace your cross.
(Today’s OXYGEN by Gina Ulicny)
Prayer: Father God, we come to you burdened with our mistakes, with our pride. We we ask you to help us realize which crosses we are carrying that you did not put on our shoulders. Help us Father to lay them down at your feet and leave them there.
Thanksgiving: Lord God of all creation, of all that is good how we praise your name. We thank you for knowing exactly what we need to grow closer to you so that we will walk toward you daily. We thank you for the crosses that you desire we carry and for helping us to carry them. Thank you for the wisdom to know that you are with us, helping us carry these crosses daily as we grow more in love for you and all your creation.