There are days when things get you down, when burdens seem so very heavy, when you end up noticing the cross on your back and feel every step is bloody. We all get them. We all need to get past them.
I had mine last Sunday. In order to get it out of my system, I walked home from my wife’s church in the gathering gloom of a chilly evening. Left a note in the car saying I was going to hoof it, and started hammering the cement. Took me a little over 2 hours via back roads — for a trip that takes 15 minutes by car. The wind was cold, but I walked briskly enough to build up a sweat. I ended up with a blister the size of a large coin on the heel of my right foot because I was in thin dress socks.
“Crosses” Flickr photo by crowt59.
During the walk, I wrestled with a problem, my personal cross. Trying to find a way to live with it harmoniously. Trying to find a way to bear it with joy. Because the gist of my problem lies in the acceptance of a cross which was tailor-made for me. Except how do I accept a repeating situation which angers and offends me? Being in the situation creates anger. The anger gets to me, breeding resentment, breeding bitterness at my inability to affect the situation. Eventually, I get bowled over by it all: the situation, my negative response, my inability to express myself in a way that makes sense to others.
But right there is the problem: my reaction. I can choose to react positively by letting words slide off me, or I can take offense at those same words and generate negativity, anger, bitterness. I can choose to embrace the cross given me no matter how difficult, or reject it because I want an easy life. How can I reject a cross given me by my Savior whom I love and chose to follow?
The next day at morning mass, our priest presider picked Matthew 14:22-34 as the gospel, where Peter sinks into the water after walking across a portion because he is distracted by the storm raging about him. Jesus says “Take courage, it is I. Do not be afraid.”
I heard the reading and thought to myself: “Stop looking at the waves. Stop panicking because of the winds. Look at Jesus and don’t take your eyes off Him.”
Saint Therese of Lisieux, also known as the Little Flower of the Child Jesus, has this beautiful quote that also came in the email a few days later:
“The only happiness here below is to strive to be always content with what Jesus gives us.”
I’m complaining because of a burden that God is giving to me to test me? I need to be content.
LOOK AWAY FROM YOURSELF
While walking, I realized that I was stuck feeling sorry for myself, and getting angry at my situation instead of accepting it as a sacrifice, as a trial of my faith that would allow me to develop perseverance as James 1:3 says.
There are so many other people going through trials much worse than mine. I think about my parents who are struggling with a business that is not exactly making ends meet. I think about Tara, a 23-year old musician friend who was shot in the head 2 days ago by a thief, and struggles for her life in an ICU unit in Manila. I think about Fr.Joey Fermin SJ, a friend and fellow Ateneo alumnus, who had liver transplant surgery a week ago and must now recover. I think about friends and acquaintances struggling with sickness and disease, cancer and lupus, heartbreak and poverty, and I realize just how many blessings I have.
Bitterness is not an acceptable response. Not when there is so much to be thankful for: your life, your health, your employment, your family, the fact that you are reunited with your wife after 4 years of long distance.
After all, 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 gives us a formula for thankfulness even as we take up our crosses daily:
“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”