Carry YOUR Cross
Carry your cross. It’s a phrase that’s thrown around a lot in the Catholic sphere. And for good reason. We’re always being called to embrace the sufferings we inevitably face in this world and to unite them to Jesus on His Cross. But recently I’ve been reflecting on this call to action in my own life, in my current situation as well as in an experience I had nearly 2 years ago. Let’s start with 2 years ago.
I was on an annual pilgrimage to Montreal with a group of Catholic young adults- most of whom I knew really well. At one point we were all in the two story Airbnb hanging out. I started talking to a friend who shared with me that a few months ago he’d gotten a concussion. Due to the injury, he actually lost his sense of taste and smell. As he talked about it, he genuinely, boldly, and confidently said something along the lines of “This is my cross to carry so I will do it and offer it up for Jesus’ sufferings.” I remember looking at him but not having my typical thought of admiration for someone who could so boldly embrace their suffering. Instead, I said, “but is this a cross that the Lord is asking you to carry?” I went on to ask if this was perhaps something that God wanted to heal for him and he shouldn’t be afraid to ask for that healing. That maybe every suffering we come face to face with isn’t one for us to bear for an extended period of time. I remember the look of surprise and inquisitiveness wash over his face. I felt the same feelings wash through me- knowing quite well that thought hadn’t come from me but most definitely came from the Holy Spirit. None the less, this was a thought we both needed to ponder.
I ended up seeing this friend a few months later. I asked how he was feeling and unfortunately his smell and taste still hadn’t really returned. But he reminded me of our conversation and how much that had stuck with him. I told him it had really stuck with me as well. So, while it seemed this was in fact his cross to carry, that question remained one that needed to be asked and brought to God.
Fast forward to now and I have been in a yearlong endeavor to actively figure out where my own health issues are stemming from. For the longest time I simply bore them on my shoulders alone. Now, a year into it and I still have no concrete answers and about 100 possibilities crossed off the list. Yet, I ask the question- is this a cross the Lord is asking me to carry? The answer- right now yes, BUT with Him.
That’s the thing about carrying your cross, it’s a necessary thing to take it up and march forward with it but you’ll only ever see goodness come out of it if you allow Christ to bear it alongside you. I’ve recently started with a new doctor and while things haven’t changed physically, I feel a new peace inside. This peace carries over into my faith and trust in God. I noticed the change when I was visiting with a dear priest friend and at the end of catching up he offered to give me the anointing of the sick. I was taken aback and literally said, “I never thought of that for myself” as if my ailments weren’t “big” enough to warrant that sacrament. As he prayed those beautiful prayers over me, accompanied by his own prayers for me, I didn’t feel myself grasping for a miraculous, immediate healing. Instead, I felt peace wash over me, knowing I was fully seen- every single part of me, and I was fully loved- every single part of me.
So, I continue on, carrying this cross, MY cross, but I do so knowing that its weight, its size, its appearance doesn’t factor into whether I can look to Jesus and say, “Is this a cross you are still asking me to carry or have we arrived at the place together where you’d like to take it from me?”.
We should never grasp to carry a cross. When we find ourselves clinging to a cross, which sounds counterintuitive but happens more than we realize, it’s often out of our own woundedness. For me, when I cling it’s often out of pride in thinking I’m able to bear it on my own or I’ll “look strong” carrying it or I even want to be viewed as the victim. But rather, the correct posture is to hold every cross loosely enough that if Christ ever turns to us and says, “It’s My turn to take this from you”, we easily release it and let His mercy, humility, and love bear it alone.
- So, the moral of the story- carry YOUR cross, but carry it WITH Christ for only as long as He asks you to.
Which crosses are you presently bearing in your life? Are you bearing them alone or with Christ? How can you invite Him into each moment of this journey so that you feel comfortable allowing your hands to only be loosely wrapped around those tough and jagged edges of your sufferings while He holds on tight?