What does it mean to accept our crosses?
A recent issue of America Magazine has an excerpt from Jim Martin’s newest book, Jesus: A Pilgrimage. The excerpt shares Martin’s thoughts on what Jesus means when he instructs “take up your cross.”
Martin suggests taking up our crosses is not simply recognizing that suffering is part of everyone’s life and that there are some things we cannot change, as true and important as that is. Rather, he says “Acceptance also means not passing along any bitterness that you feel about your suffering.”
Martin distinguishes between sharing our suffering with others – talking about them, crying about them, perhaps even complaining about them – and letting our suffering rule our behavior. “[I]f you are angry about your boss or school or family, you needn’t pass along that anger to others and magnify their suffering. having a lousy boss is not a reason to be mean to your family. Struggling through a rotten family situation is no excuse for being insensitive to your coworkers. Problems at school do not mean that you can be cruel to your parents. Christ did not lash out at people when he was suffering, even when he was lashed by the whip.”
Sadly, that kind of behavior is all too common and I’ve seen it in myself. You come home from a bad day at work and lash out disproportionately at a spouse or child and say, “You have to excuse me, I had a bad day at work.” I’m sure you can think of equivalent examples.
I think we all have a sense that is not a particularly admirable thing to do – that our “excuses” are not, in fact, sufficient excuses. But there is something in Martin’s tying it to Jesus’ words about taking up our cross that is helpful to me. That, I hope, will keep me mindful of the need to refrain from “passing along” my suffering to others.