Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Your Biggest Cross

Sisyphus: courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Rumor has it that a newspaper once sent out an inquiry to famous authors, asking the question, What’s wrong with the world today? And Chesterton responded simply:

“Dear Sir,

I am.

Yours, G.K. Chesterton.”

This story about G.K. Chesterton is not substantiated but I sure wish it were true. Why do I wish this?

Because sooner or later every person stumbles upon one of the great truths of life. And "stumbles upon" is the right phrase because this truth sure feels like a huge stumbling block. God knows this truth, the saints knew it, the souls in Purgatory definitely know it. We may know it as well, but our pride resists it. This truth is:

We are our own heaviest crosses.

There, I said it.

And it's true for all of us.

When I first came upon this realization I thought it was only me. That I, myself, was my own heaviest cross and that this didn't apply straight across the board.

But it does. It applies to all of us. When you read the lives of the saints you see that every single one of them came to this conclusion about themselves. It's a common thread that runs through their writings and one we should take note of.

Those who say, "But my husband (insert person or circumstance of choice here) is my heaviest cross!"

Nope. Not true. You are your heaviest cross. This is a truth about ourselves that we tend to resist in an extraordinary way because pride has taken root in our hearts and we don't want to believe that one of our biggest problems just might be ourselves.

When we believe that others are our "heavy crosses" it may be one of the strongest signs that a virtue we should be praying for in abundance is the virtue of humility and maybe some charity to go with it.

It took me ten years to learn this. (And another five to accept it.)

It is part and parcel of our fallen human nature.

It's a great lesson though because as soon as we REALLY learn this,as soon as we stop resisting God's
efforts to point this oh so hard-to swallow, it's stuck in my throat fact out, we can begin to make quick progress in the spiritual life because our focus is taken off the sins and faults of our neighbor and responsibility is planted squarely on the shoulders to whom it belongs. We stop blaming others for our heavy loads and start seeing that WE are the heavy loads. This is not to say that there are not external circumstances in our lives that do not make our cross heavier. There are. But the reason the *external circumstances* are so "heavy" is because of our *internal circumstances*.

In other words, if you want to lighten your load you have to work on yourself first.

As G.K. Chesterton so bluntly puts it: Not only are we all in the same boat, but we are all seasick.

Funny how some of the most obvious things in life are the most difficult to see. Not only are we seasick, we are "see sick" as well and our biggest blind spot is ourselves.

~ You cannot escape it, wherever you run. For wherever you go you carry yourself with you, and will always find yourself. Turn upwards or turn downwards, turn inwards or turn outwards: everywhere you will find the cross.                      Thomas A Kempis

~ The greatest cross of all is self.       Archbishop Francois Fenelon


  1. The sermon in church was from Matthew 16:21-27 where Jesus says to his disciples: “If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross and follow me”.

    When I got home I thought I’d do something nice. I gave my wife a big hug and a kiss, and carried her indoors.

    Startled she snapped "What’s wrong with you, have you gone crazy?"

    "No my dear,” I replied. "Didn’t you hear the sermon? Jesus said pick up your cross and follow Me".

    I got a slap in the face and severe backache. No Sunday lunch either!

    And now the serious bit ...

    Mary, this is yet another splendid post and I thank you for it. In reality, our relationship should be on a one-to-one basis with God. Yes, we learn from the Bible, from our priests and from each other. But at the end of the day our relationship is with God.

    If the going is heavy ... it is because of us. We are our own heaviest crosses. As you rightly say.

    God bless you.

    1. Funny, Victor! I'm sure that wouldn't go over well!

      I'm glad you liked the post - I almost didn't hit publish (it's been sitting in my drafts) because I know how bluntly I stated this truth about how we are our heaviest crosses but , really, how can it be softened? Lol. It can't be! I don't know why it took me so many years to see it.

      Er, yes I do : pride. I was too proud to accept it.

  2. Mary,
    It can be so easy to see others as our crosses, but what you say here is really true. Perhaps the more we surrender our heavy selves to God, the lighter this cross of self will become. Sin just adds to our weight. The sacraments are a wonderful "weightloss" program :)
    Thanks for this and for Chesterton's quotes. One of the reasons I like him is because he is so straightforward. Like Jesus, he doesn't mince words.
    Have a blessed and fruitful Lent.

    1. Hi Karin,
      You make a very good point here and it's a subject that has been on my mind a lot lately and the food for another post I'm working on. Dying to self and growing in virtue are two of the things that "sweeten the cross" - so the saints could bear heavy crosses because self didn't get in the way as much.

      I hope you have a blessed Lent too.

  3. Loving these quotes here. Also love a post that is right to the point! So very true. If I can just get over myself, I'd be a lot more at peace! Ha!

  4. Thanks, Monica :) You hit it right on the nose...lol. Getting over ourselves is no picnic though! Thanks for commenting!

  5. Mary, you should put together a book of practical suggestions to grow in faith. Your posts are always so inspiring and helpful! Thank you for the gift of your wisdom.

  6. Hi Anne,
    Thank you for your encouraging words :) I hope you and your family have a blessed Lent!

  7. I've never thought of this, but I think you're right, Mary!

    1. Lol...you mean the saints are right. It took me a long time to believe them!

  8. Oh Mary, how true! And we keep getting in the way of the Lord Who is trying to lighten our burden and give us rest, because we won't let go of our control, and so we wear ourselves out dragging this old cross around! Pride...does it ever really go away?!

    I agree with Anne...book, please! Love and prayers for a holy Lent +

    1. Great comment, Patricia! Yeah, I think we definitely DO get in God's way!

      I hope you have a blessed Lent as well :)

      A book? In my brain-fried state lately? I'll have to wait until the needle moves off of spacey first.

  9. Mary! Where have I been idling around? Your blog looks great. I have to check my blog list because I am missed this post.

    I have no issue with seeing myself as the biggest cross, trust me...I know it. It smacks me on the shoulder every day! (Although I would like to call insomnia a big fat cross right now!)

    Graces this Lent. xo

  10. Hi Theresa!
    Thanks, I decided this place needed an update. The pink was hurting my sleep deprived eyes...lol.

    Insomnia is a big fat cross :) Leaves me with a fried brain. But I have made it bigger than it is many times because of my "internal circumstances". Sigh. We really are all "seasick" as Chesterton puts it.

    Thanks for commenting, my friend. Please know this "seasick" person prays for you.