April 9th, 2019
Somebody once explained to me what it actually means to “carry one’s cross”. The person who told me about this made a point of differentiating between involuntary and voluntary suffering. This individual made it clear to me that involuntary suffering (e.g. cancer, famine, HIV) is not actually “carrying your cross”. That kind of pain obviously sucks, but a person has no choice in the matter. Voluntary suffering, like when Jesus picked up his cross and walked toward Golgotha, is a very different thing. When a person takes on a burden of their own free will, that is what it means to carry your cross.
Lent is about carrying your cross, whatever that may be. It is about following Christ on the Via Dolorosa. It is about t’shuva, the Jewish idea of turning back to God. It is ultimately about dying. It is about dying to oneself in order to rise up again as something and somebody new. In short, it is painful.
The season of Lent would be relentlessly depressing, if it were not for the fact of the Resurrection. I am not just talking about the resurrection of Jesus. I am talking about the resurrection of everybody. We all go through a series of small deaths during the course of our short lives. We can all rise again. I believe that we all will rise again.
I know that I am not orthodox, and I know that many Christians believe that some people fail the test, and burn in hell. I don’t believe that. I have never believed that. Life is too hard, too cruel, and too ambiguous for anyone to fail. I cannot look at my life, and the lives of others, and think that somebody, anybody, doesn’t make the cut. We all deserve peace and rest after this time on earth. I mean all of us. No exceptions.
A friend of mine recently wrote to me, and said, “I notice that your situation with (a girl) has giving you the opportunity for an arduous Lent. I hope you experience a glorious Easter.”
The situation to which my friend refers is with a young woman whom we love, and who struggles mightily with mental illness and addiction. She tries every day to live a meaningful life, despite her challenges. She never gives up. She suffers. We suffer. We try to help her to carry her cross. Sometimes, she falls, and we all fall. When we fall, we learn what love really means. Love means sacrifice. It means action. It means a small death.
I willingly help this young woman carry her heavy cross. I will carry it with her as long as she lives, or I live. I once said that I would go to hell with this girl rather than let her go there alone. I stand by that. I will not abandon her. I will not turn my back.
Will there be an Easter for her? I don’t know.
All I know is that, whatever comes, I will be with her.