Everyone has their cross to bear.
The phrase comes from the story of Jesus of Nazareth’s death by crucifixion. Regardless of what you may believe about Christ from a theological standpoint, it’s a generally accepted historical fact that there was a man named Jesus, and that in the year 33 A.D., he was sentenced to death by a Roman magistrate at trial.
The historical accounts of Christ’s crucifixion describe a man tortured, beaten, mocked, hit by stones, cursed and heckled by some of those watching as well as the Roman soldiers, and other atrocities.
In every account of this story, it is written that Christ carried his own cross through the city and eventually to the top of a hill where he was nailed to that cross, pierced by a spear, and put on display along with two other convicted criminals to bleed out and die in front of anyone with the stomach to watch.
Forgive the elementary recap. But I think it’s important to understand exactly what “carrying your cross” means.
Not a lot of people know what it feels like to be angry. In your bones.
We all have them. Every one of us. Crosses that need carried.
Some people don’t have access to fresh, clean, safe water. Their children are constantly at risk from violence, disease, starvation, and other dangers I’m too ignorant to think of half a world away.
Others are hungry and homeless. Or addicted and impoverished. They’re the Have Nots living amongst the Haves.
The more fortunate of us have different crosses. We lose jobs, or have medical expenses. We lose a parent or grandparent. We have struggles with family and friends. We have physical, spiritual and emotional struggles.
And there’s no getting out of it.
We’re so blessed to be among the chosen few that get to be alive. For those of us living in wealthy, developed nations, pleasures and luxuries abound. Even for those of us planted firmly in the middle class.
I’m glad I recapped the struggles others have to face. Because I need the reminder. It doesn’t make me feel any better that millions of people have it way worse than I do. But it does help keep my mind focused on the right things.
The cost of being alive is carrying crosses.
When I was a child, my cross was always being far away from one of my two parents at any given time. It was having very few financial resources.
As an adult, my crosses have come in the form of an unexpected layoff and some financial uncertainty, to a distraught wife that lost her father overnight one autumn evening, to now. To my divorce. To my quiet shell of a house. To my son being gone far too often.
I’m embarrassed that I’m about to quote a Batman film, but it’s simply too perfect not to. Because John Blake (played by actor Joseph Gordon Levitt) absolutely nails it:
“Not a lot of people know what it feels like to be angry. In your bones. You gotta learn to hide the anger. Practice smiling in the mirror. It’s like putting on a mask.”
Blake and Batman deliver violent judgment to those intent on hurting them or those they love.
I don’t think vigilante justice is in my future. Nor am I interested in harming anyone. Ever.
But I’m angry. In my bones.
A text message exchange with my soon-to-be ex wife made me shake today. It was the first time I’d ever been so angry that my hands shook. I pray it’s the last.
The most-important aspect of Christ’s crucifixion story is that he never lashed out. He never retaliated. He never spoke ill of those who hit him, and cut him, and screamed at him, and shoved thorns into his head.
He accepted his fate on behalf of all people. Those who loved him as well as those who didn’t.
He begged forgiveness for those who put him to death.
“They know not what they do,” he said.
I want to carry my cross with strength.
I want to exhibit kindness. And class. Forgiveness, even.
You’ve heard it before: Be the change you want to see in the world.
Keep your head up when carrying your crosses. Help others carry their’s and you’ll feel strength you didn’t know you had.
And graciously accept a little help from those who want to help you now and then.
And together, we’ll get to the top of the hill. And God-willing, find salvation.