The Crosses We Choose

Reflections on the Stations of the Cross

Jesus is taken from the cross

and laid in the tomb

Photo by Contemplative Imagine, via Flickr

All through Lent, the thirteenth station has stymied me. As I brainstormed topics, it stuck out from the others, not because the application was so obvious as to be trite, but because I came up blank.

I questioned why this bit of stage directions is even included. It doesn’t really seem to have a purpose, now that Jesus is dead, does it?

Except, perhaps, as a reminder that most of our crosses aren’t meant to be carried forever. There are crosses, after all, and then there are crosses. Illness, the heartbreak of family members who make poor choices–these are things we can’t control.

But a lot of my crosses, at least, I bring on myself. An inability or unwillingness to see any potential for life to be structured differently than it is, even when life falls into an avalanche of “should,” “must,” and “guilt.” An almost neurotic tendency to drag up the mistakes of the past–especially the really unimportant ones, the ones that never hurt anything except my pride. To dredge up, chew on, swallow and regurgitate the offenses and slights of the past, and then do it all again, as if my soul is a bovine stomach and re-digesting them might give me superpowers or at least super insight.

I hung myself on these crosses long ago, crosses God never asked me to bear and upon which I keep crucifying myself for some reason only God knows. Let’s face it: in many cases–not all, but many–even the really big unresolved wounds in our lives remain so because we choose not to resolve them. We choose to keep hanging there, suffering, instead of coming down from the cross and stepping into a terrifying unknown that might lead to the soul-rest we so desperately crave even as we run away from it.

Which brings me to the last station. You notice Jesus didn’t breathe his last, wait one minute and then leap off the cross singing. He was wrapped up, buried, and left in a tomb, with no expectation of a future. For me, Holy Saturday occupies a place all its own in this yearly observance. The heart-wringing drama of Holy Thursday and Good Friday is past, and the trembling potential of the Easter vigil has yet to erupt.

There’s an emptiness to this day, as if the soul needs space to absorb all that came before, all the penance and fasting and self-examination that, if it was done well, has scrubbed the soul raw. The season of Lent leaves us emotionally drained, and poised between Good Friday and Easter Sunday stands this day of rest.

Photo by Paul Moody, via Flickr

It’s a beautiful thing, rest. Body rest, soul rest, work rest. A gift too easily undervalued. I don’t need to explain it. You all know what drives you and what areas of your life suffer from being driven. For myself, this post marks the beginning of a weekend of rest. I will leave the computer dark this weekend, however much it beckons, and I will give my soul the chance to live with the emptiness until it burst into bloom once more.