Carrying The Cross

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Reflections on the Stations of the Cross
The Second Station:
Jesus carries the cross

I spend a fair amount of time puzzling over the lack of faith in the modern world. Although there are a lot reasons, the one I keep coming back to is this: life in the western world is pretty easy. We can have whatever we want to eat, whenever we want it. Entertainment and distraction is available at the touch of a button 24-7. There is plenty of shelter, plenty of space, and the law of the land protects us from the kind of terror that results from unbridled power.

So much is taken for granted, we no longer recognize the bounty and the institutional safety that has been given us by those who came before us–or by the sheer dumb luck of living here and now. It’s easy to lose touch with how fragile and precious life really is. Without obvious, visceral reminders to the contrary, there’s a place deep inside that says “I don’t need anybody else, least of all some higher power telling me what to do. I’ve got this.” Or, as Julianna would say, “I do ee (it)!”

So faith founders because faith is based on a recognition that we are small and weak and in need of something we can’t even quite put a finger on.

It is life’s crosses–mental or physical suffering, illness, untimely deaths; the moments when we recognize our smallness, our pettiness, the habitual sins we can’t shake and the faults in our souls–that send us running back to God.

Christian and I give witness talks on natural family planning. As part of that, we tell about how irregular cycles caused extended periods of abstinence early in our marriage, and how we spent all kinds of time growling at God over it. We talk about infertility, the outraged howls we sent Heaven-ward, and the long, painful struggle to say–and mean–the words “Thy will be done.” And then we come to Julianna. Every time, Christian chokes up as he pulls it all together: the fact that all the crosses we have born in our reproductive life led to this moment, this ultimate “thy will be done.”

I do not think we could have accepted Julianna’s presence in our lives as easily as we did if it hadn’t been for those other crosses.

My crosses make me a better person.

Realizing this has changed a lot of things for me. I’m no more enamored of suffering or of confronting my own demons than anyone else. At the same time, I recognize that in the absence of a cross to bear, I become complacent, self-satisfied, obnoxious and generally insufferable. So I am grateful for the everyday crosses, and yes, even for those protracted periods of soul stretching. In the rawness of my soul I go looking for God, and God is always there: shrouded, perhaps, lacking the clarity of a billboard with my name on it, but present nonetheless. And always leading me through the darkness, one hesitant step at a time.

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