Monday, February 27, 2012

Cross Bearing

There is an old gospel song that many of us have sung in religious circles sometimes in our lives that begins, "Must Jesus bear the cross alone, and all the world go free, no there's a cross for everyone, and there's a cross for me."  The song reminds the singer that crosses come in many forms in life and each of us have one or more that we must carry in the same way that Jesus carried an actual cross to the place of his death.  Our crosses are not made of wood and metal but they are real to us in the same way that that tool of execution was to Jesus. 

Some of us carry crosses of pain that we cannot seem to lose.  My poor father had a bad back all his life.  He was constantly in pain with it and went to doctors and chiropractors and others whom he hoped would help him find some relief.  It worked at times but many times he simply suffered in pain with his back.  It seems I have inherited his back issues because my back problems seem to be increasing in regularity and severity.  They come and stay more than come and go.  That is minor in comparison to the woes of some persons, however.  Many suffer with the effects of long term illness and they bear that cross throughout their lives. 

Some carry the cross of depression and anxiety.  They do not want to feel sad all the time but it is as if they cannot flip the switch that will bring them relief.  They depend upon doctors and drugs because they do not know any other source that may help them.  They worry about the future and what it may bring for them. 

Some carry the cross of contention and family issues and sources of grief and pain that only they can know.  We cannot begin to understand the problems of others.  Many times, they suffer silently because they cannot share their deepest needs with anyone because they believe that no one can truly understand what they feel.  They may feel alone in the wilderness of despair, needing to feel the warmth of human companionship but also afraid to get too close lest they be hurt by others. 

We carry our crosses throughout our lives and many times we think that we carry them alone, and we may indeed do so.  Giving up the right to do it alone, though, allows God and others to be active in our lives and may bring about some relief that we seek.  When we trust others to know what is truly in our hearts, we open the door to healing that may come through self-revelation.  When we truly seek God with all our hearts, we will find God close by.  We have all been hurt in life and many times we hold close to us the feelings of pain that we have experienced.  As we open ourselves up to healing by God's Spirit and through the ministry of our friends and neighbors, we may find that our crosses do not have to be carried all alone. 

I write this as a pastor but I also write as one who has been hurt by life and living.  I have experienced the pain that is common to all of us by trusting others and being involved with others in life only to find that they may betray your trust.   We can keep all of these needs to ourselves and suffer in silence but we can also open ourselves up to others who can help us and to God as we pray and seek God's presence to be real in our lives. 

"The word 'courage' comes from coeur, which means 'heart".  To have courage is to listen to our heart, to speak from our heart, and to act from our heart...Courage starts in small corners...It is courageous to think well of other people and be grateful to them...It is courageous to reach out to a poor person, to spend time with a troubled child, to participate in action to prevent war and violence."  (Henri J.M. Nouwen, Sabbatical Journey: The Diary of His Final Year)

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