|Sculpture: Nicholas Mynheer|
There is a wonderful one-line story in the Bible about a man named Simon of Cyrene. It lies in the midst of the story of the crucifixion, after we go through the visceral nastiness of Jesus being whipped and mocked and spit on. The soldiers lead Jesus out to be crucified. And then comes the story-in-a-nutshell:
A certain man from Cyrene, Simon, the father of Alexander and Rufus, was passing by on his way in from the country, and they forced him to carry the cross. (Mark 15:21)I love Simon. I love the humanizing fact that he's someone's dad, and that his 15 minutes of fame come smack in the middle of someone else's story -- and we never hear of him again.
I love Simon because he shows that Jesus didn't feel the need to say, "Oh, no, that's okay -- I can do it all myself".
I love Simon because some significant part of life consists of thinking we're just "passing by", when it turns out that we're needed in that spot at that point in time to help. We might object to the job, and we might think we're not the right person, but so what? We're available. We're called.
Today I woke up early, and after a longish quiet time I began to think about carrying crosses. You know: those big, heavy chunks of the wood of life, the kind that drive splinters into your head and make you stagger and fall. The kind that may offer only more pain and suffering at the end of the trip.
It's hard to carry your own cross. It's a different kind of hard to be among those helplessly lining the road, watching as someone else carries his. We want to cry out to the Roman guards, "Me -- pick me! I'll carry it!" We want to be a Simon of Cyrene to those we love. But really, we want more than that. We want to take up the crosses of others so we can make their suffering go away.
But that wasn't the role of Simon of Cyrene. For a brief period, his cross was to carry the cross of someone else. And after that, his cross was to carry the burden of being unable to do more.