Thursday, March 28, 2013

Rambling thoughts about the cross

I've always been fond of Simon of Cyrene. He's the guy who happened to be walking along the road while Jesus was heading out to be crucified, and -- presumably because Jesus was impossibly tired, having already been whipped -- Simon was forced to carry Jesus' heavy cross for a stretch.

I like Simon because his one-line appearance in the Bible tells me that Jesus accepted help from others. Simon moves me past my pride and allows me to nod yes when people step in to ease my load.

I also like Simon because he reminds me that sometimes we're pressed into service to carry crosses other than our own. That's different than being asked to carry someone else's burden, or offering to carry it. Simon was forced, which is sometimes the only way things happen. Surely, if given a choice, he would have stayed far, far away from Roman soldiers and the shame of being associated with criminals.

The third reason I like Simon is that he wasn't a main character. The bigger story unfolds after his cameo (though one imagines that, within his family, the story of great-grandpa's 15 seconds of fame was passed down with more color).  I'm no major player, either. I do what I can (or must), and it's rather a comfort that while I'm important in some way to the story, the outcome does not rely on me.

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There's something poetic about the phrase "take up your cross and follow me". It's motivating, inspirational, can-do: Yes! I will!

Of course, there's the matter of figuring out what your cross actually is. There's a tendency these days to speak of traffic jams, annoying colleagues and dirty diapers as crosses, as if Jesus said, "Endure your inconveniences, and follow me". But I rather suspect that taking up the cross involves more suffering than the 45-second delay the old lady ahead of you at the ATM causes.

Crosses are orders of magnitude more than unpleasant: they're repulsive. You do not want one, it is not easy to take up, and it's even harder to slog down the endless road to Calvary with one digging into your shoulder. Crosses put you in the position of focusing on only the next step, of living through the next moment, of doing whatever the next thing it is that you have to do. With a cross, you can't necessarily see how it will turn out; in the darkness, you do not know for certain that there is light ahead. You have to trust that it is there, even if only on the other side of death.

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Each of us has inner secrets and insecurities we do not want the world to discover. I suspect there is a direct relationship between these secrets and who we aspire to be. Perhaps we are afraid we are incompetent, so we protect that secret, yearning to be someone we think we are not. Or, from the flip side, perhaps we yearn to be thought of as solid Christians, and writhe in the knowledge that we're not as faith-filled as others think.

This morning I was toying with the idea that perhaps our insecurities are directly related to our crosses. Not in the sense of looking at our insecurities as our crosses, because that could lead to saying, "Oh, I'm an anxious person and I just have to live with that". (We can, after all, pick up and carry the burden of our faults around for a lifetime, without ever being the better for it.) I'm thinking more along the lines that our insecurities point out what it is we need to die to.

Ponder that one with me, and tell me what you think.


  1. I *totally* agree with you on that one. Our insecurities relate to our modern-day idols. We get anxious when they're threatened. So of course that's what we need to die to.

    Not, of course, that we want to deal with the pain of it, especially the one foot in front of the other kind of pain.

  2. will think on it. though today i am feeling all sorts of judgement of others and resistance to considerations that it may in fact, be ME causing the problems. blugh. a cross of self-satisfaction and purposeful blindness? man.
    in constant work,