“Take up your cross and follow me.”
This is the most exciting and radical statement, yet also, perhaps, the most misunderstood and misinterpreted saying of Christ; for to take up your cross and follow me is so often seen as a call to suffer and to rejoice in suffering, almost for suffering sake, with the focus being on some form of heavenly reward, rather than truly understanding the meaning of suffering as transformation in love, right here, right now, experiencing the transcendence of love in the immanence of being and finding it is greater than all pain. For it seems as if only the first part of the command is heard.
To focus on the physical aspect of the cross, without understanding what it truly means to follow Christ, is easily done. But what may be forgotten is the most important question. How can I follow Christ?
What does it really mean, then, to take up your cross and follow me? Surely it means to live your life as fully as you can, to live in the power and the wonder and the mercy of God, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, transforming all hurts into light, love and service? But more than this, it is a call to those with no other choice than to bear unimaginable pain and suffering, with new strength and wisdom and despite the fact it will not, cannot, leave you, yet nevertheless you embrace it and begin to learn the true lessons of the cross: transformation, transfiguration, immanence in transcendence and transcendence in immanence.
It means to bear the pain you experience, when it will not leave and to enter fully into it, so that it does not trap you within it, in a place that has no apparent hope. It means to experience God totally, utterly, completely with you, in each moment, for He alone can sustain and strengthen you or simply weep with you and stand by loving you, when nothing else is possible.
And when the burden of pain is so great that you cannot feel His presence with you, nor bear the presence of anyone else, still you hold on to the knowledge that He is real and He has not abandoned you, even if it may feel likes his is so.
It means to not be overwhelmed by guilt or grief or distress or fear, nor hopelessness and helplessness, but when all these come calling upon you, as they surely will, if there is no way out of your pain, it means to hold on, even when you cannot see the way ahead, even when you do not know what to do, even when nothing is possible, even when agony is all you can experience.
It means to find new experience, new awareness of presence, new understanding of what it is to truly suffer and find a path of transcendence that does not negate your reality, but illuminates it and enables you to bear it and understand the deepest meaning of life and express the greatest compassion and love, both for yourself, those immediately with you and those others in need. It is to flow in the absolute meaning of Mercy …… And find life.