Lately I’ve been thinking about the cross is a symbol that points us toward a new context for living. It is bigger than the idea that we were bad and God was so good that he did something super nice for us. Taken with the imagery in Rowan William’s book, I picture God stepping into history in real time and halting the chaotic onslaught of mankind’s penchant for self-interest. The cross is a symbol of a new space being made for a moment of clarity.
Once upon a time one of my children suffered a loss. Like all things grief related, attempts to comfort were a mixed bag of blessing and awkward moments. My child explained to me that all of it was a gift because the hearts of those who sought to comfort were loving and well-intentioned, even if the efforts to comfort sometimes did not actually soothe the suffering.
Was my child so desperate for support that even the awkward attempts to comfort were received as a gift? Well, yes. This grief ran wide and deep. There is a tenderness that assaults us when we have a spiritual awakening during times of suffering; we awaken to the idea that a life of faith does not result in the absence of crushing loss. It frees us to lay down our demands and desires for the world to be just, peaceful, and kind. It requires, however, that we pick up the cross and “do” justice, peace and kindness to others even during times when it feels like we are least prepared or equipped to do so. It is the only way that the kingdom of God will ever come to planet earth.
In our efforts to change, are we carefully considering what needs to change in order to obey as a harmonic response to God so that God sees in the world a reflection of his own life? If this feels like a heavy burden, let’s remember that this really isn’t about what we’re DOING, it is about making room for what God is doing. Our natural responses are antithetical to this call to kindness, but no worries. God’s nature is what will shine through as we surrender to his will. We surrender; he shines. In the case of my child, I watched as said child responded to each offer of sympathy with kindness. In this I felt God’s pleasure. It is hard for us to know how to respond to each other in the midst of sorrow, but what we can learn is how to practice kindness in any and all circumstances without asking for other mere mortals to “get it right”.