Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Your Biggest Cross

Nothing like being caught between a rock and a hard place...of self.

From my archives:

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. You're right, Mary. We are our heaviest Crosses, because it is us who make us what we really are. Great post today full of wisdom. Thanx.

    I remember the day, years ago, when 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!

    God bless.

    1. Victor, I first thought of sharing this with my husband, but knowing that I'm his cross, I thought I shouldn't have that rubbed into my face - because he'd do just what you did!

  2. Ha ha!! You deserved that slap, Victor!

    You have a great sense of humor and I always love your comments :)

  3. This came up in the RCIA meeting that I was at, last night, Mary. The topic was Confession and we talked about how we tend to make excuses for ourselves at the beginning of our journeys, when we tend to see other people's faults more than our own. Then, gradually, the balance tips the other way and we see less fault in others - we begin to see ourselves as we really are and the cross as a means of helping others.

    Yes, I agree about being my own worst cross but would the suffering that causes also make me my own form of penance? No need to give up chocolate for Lent, after all;-)

    1. You make a good point here, Vicky - God definitely changes our hearts over time and we tend to take more responsibility for our own actions. Especially when we realize that we always have a choice regardless of how another person acts. The saints are great models for us in this area.

      I'm with you on the penance thing. I see Anne is too :)

  4. Mary, I had never considered this! I always learn something new from you. This makes complete sense! I am my own cross and to lighten it's weight I need to cling more tightly to God. I like Vicky's explanation, too.

    1. I wish I had known this many years ago though! But I probably wouldn't have accepted it back then...lol. I'm giggling because I misread your comment about liking Vicky's comment and thought you were talking about the chocolate! Goes to show where my brain was at! No wonder I'm my biggest cross!

  5. Amen Mary! Love Chesterton too! Here's to dragging our dark, thudding, hunk of cross around.... Lord have mercy....

  6. Ha ha! I love your imagery, Cynthia!

  7. Mary - very eye opening post - and timely for Lent. Thank you for sharing this (as much as it hurts to reflect on it). God Bless you!

  8. Thank you, Michael! God bless you too!

  9. Mary, I think I've always known I am my own cross; just never consciously thought it. This Lent in particular, I've been on a lent regimen of prayers and devotions, and your delightful post made me realize that Jesus took me to those prayers and devotions to make me less of a cross to others!

  10. Hi Caitlynne,
    The saints often say that we are our biggest crosses but I have to admit that I really didn't understand why for a long time. It took me forever to grasp that it's the pride and self-love in us that makes us often think of others or circumstances as our biggest crosses.

    1. It is indeed, Mary. Pride and self-love are like double-point knives, I think. They harm us. They harm others. May we be delivered of them sooner than later.