Raise your hand if you have burdens you bear. It does not matter if those burdens are permanent or temporary, heavy or light, exposed or hidden, or even perhaps you are driving with your eyes closed, trust me, eventually you will crash! Come on, raise those hands, we ALL have our crosses to bear in this life. Some crosses are unchangeable and interminable. Some crosses are an adversity lasting an indeterminate, but limited amount of time. Some crosses are things that ‘happen to us’ causing severe ripple effects throughout our entire lifespan. Some crosses are consequences from conscious or ignorant choices made. Some crosses are life, redefining moments that establish a time marker of before and after where life breaks forever, you are now stumbling through an unfamiliar dense forest, and your life story is instantly getting re-written; life will never be the same. Now that all of your hands are finally raised, you ALL can put your hands down now.
If we put together an impromptu list of crosses people bear, I imagine it would be a scroll stretching out unfathomable miles and truthfully still would never be all-encompassing. I have my truly unbelievable ‘stuff’ to me, but I know every single person on the face of this earth has their personal story filled with hardships. I wish I had an anonymous PO Box to receive anonymous stories from willing people about their adversities. I think it would be quite therapeutic and safe to unload a portion of that weight. Whatever your crosses and however you define them, at times the pills seem too hard to swallow. To me I can feel like Sisyphus pushing that boulder up that steep hill; sometimes I would like to let go of that boulder and just let it steamroller over me. Crosses equal suffering! Suffering equals grief, pain, agony, anguish, despair, temptations, trials, and tribulations. I have had times when I felt like I simply could not tolerate my constant-never-ending-at-times-desperate struggling.
For me, I did not exactly win the “Wonderful Parenting, Happy Childhood” lottery. Life was MESSED up!!! Nevertheless, I drove through life with my eyes closed. Externally, I gave the appearance of all together, life was a bed of roses – clean, pruned, good job, faithful employee, bills paid, nice clothes, friends, attend church and served, practiced personal spiritual disciplines, warm and cozy tidy meticulous home (all things said in no certain order,) the only external red flashing beacon of light giving off urgent warning signals was my ever-increasing weight. I was over-qualified at surviving, recovering, and denying and onward I raced through my inner obstacle course. On the inside, I was MESSED up! Weedy vines began choking out and killing my roses! Those vines intertwined around everything; they were killer vines invading and smothering my landscape. Yet, I was merrily speeding through life with my eyes closed at a high rate of speed. I did not even realize these vines had suction cupped and attached themselves to every piece of me, until eventually, I crashed. In reality, I was being internally strangulated by choking vines; I was being attacked by rose thorns causing injurious deep scrapes and cuts; I was slowly fading and dying. I carried crosses labeled spiritual, physical, gender, marital, financial, bankruptcy, loss of house, moving, friendships, family, financial, employment, disability, death, mental issues, therapeutic abuse, medical nightmares, insomnia, buried feelings of emptiness, loneliness, resentment, shame, PTSD, etc. – all symptomatic seepage from my internal brokenness. I was fighting a fierce battle of survival, trust me I had an extreme arsenal of weapons acquired in childhood where I learned how to survive. Eventually, profound despair, exhaustion, and hopelessness turned into a daily crusade of desperately wanting to take my own life. I would sit at work on the third floor, thinking about going down to the vacant first floor restroom and slashing my wrists. I would think about OD’ing on pills. The abyss kept getting deeper and darker the further my mind slipped into searching for an escape hatch.
This is just a mere glimpse at the tip of my iceberg; it is the unseen mass below the surface that truly needed to be worked at chipping away. It takes a whole lot of courage to choose life; it takes a brave soul to look at what lies beneath the surface. It seems the holidays and winter months can capitalize on my weaknesses, even though I have gained many coping skills. I know that I am not alone. There are oh so very many who suffer during this joyous season – sadness, loneliness, estrangement, anxiety, stress, sleep disturbances, fatigue, isolating and social withdrawal, loss of interest in activities, depression, PTSD, grief, tearfulness, financial constraints, fear, shame, perfectionism, frustration, irritability, fixating on the past, physical ailments, aches, and pains, etc. These too are symptoms of floating icebergs. It takes bold audacity to drill down inside those frozen parts and take a hard long forward look at what is actually causing behavioral and symptomatic manifestations of deeper causes. It is hard work! It is hard to get gut wrenching honest with yourself and begin identifying your junk. And, it is even harder to implement the life-long changes in order to stop the hemorrhaging. There is always a different way to manage carrying our crosses. Now, I am no authority or professional, and quite honestly am still in recovery, but we have been able to cut away some of the vines, remove some of the thorns, I am breathing a little better these days, and definitely I am not suicidal.
I don’t begin to know or pretend to know what cross you are bearing; I don’t know if it is a thorn in the flesh, a death, a divorce, a sick child, someone terminally ill, mental illness, personal injury or illness, addiction, family issues, troubles at work, change in work status, less than favorable custody arrangement, financial decline, foreclosure, change in residence, school, or church, betrayal, loss of trust, loss of safety, violated, crime, imprisonment, a bad hair day, or hell on earth. Here is what I do know. There is ALWAYS hope, there is always something to be thankful for, and there are acts of service we can do for others to switch our focus!! I do not mean denial; I mean concentrating on good things. Your situation might not change tomorrow, next week, a month, or a year from now, but there is hope and something to find gratitude for in the midst. You may spend a lifetime praying for something that will never be and at times, it makes your heart so painfully sad that you recoil from life for a bit, lick your wounds, and slowly emerge with renewed hope. Press the reset button and do a good deed for someone else. Somehow, find gratitude and bless someone else. You may spend a lifetime battling an addiction – rising and falling, rising and falling, time after time hoping this time will be victory at last. Do not give up hope! Extend grace and mercy to yourself. Stand up, brush yourself off, and try again! You may be carrying a hidden grief so heavy and painful that at times you are drowning and suffocating. Do not let hope slide away. Look around for even a miniscule something to be thankful for and spread a little joy somewhere. Whatever your cross, keep hope alive, find gratitude in the waiting, and grasp that little mustard seed of faith. Miracles happen everyday!
I want to share a writing by someone anonymous to me:
THE MIRACLE OF CHRISTMAS
The whole Christmas story is full of miracles.
I personally find them hard to comprehend.
It makes no sense.
How could the infinite eternal God become a baby?
Not only how, but also why?
Why would He choose to be born to peasant parents?
Why would He empty Himself of every advantage of His divine nature?
Why would He choose to become a servant and become obedient to death?
even death on a cross?
Why to sinners like us did He do it?
It is because of his all-encompassing love.
I cannot explain it, but I believe it.
I thank God for sending His Son to an imperfect world.
To a world that celebrates the spirit of consumerism
Where Christmas comes from shopping lists, catalogs, and the almighty credit card.
I pray God delivers us from empty cheer and season’s greetings born of obligation.
I hope He delivers us from all the social events that supposedly honor Jesus.
Surely, Christmas is supposed to be more than packages, paper, bows, silver bells, Frosty, Rudolph and all his reindeer friends.
You see the true spirit of Christmas cannot be found in a store window or in a Christmas carol.
Christmas is not giving bigger and better so we can get bigger and better.
You cannot count Christmas by the number of decorations you use.
We cannot even count Christmas by the number of manger scenes and stars we have on the tree.
In fact, we cannot even count Christmas by the number of verses we memorize.
I pray God would grant us the true spirit of Christmas:
Generosity of heart and the love, which caused Christ to wrap Himself in the garments of our humanity.
I pray God shows us the true meaning of Christmas and affirms our worth apart from what we have or what we do.
For reasons which only His Holy love can explain, God gave Christ to become one of us and to suffer the consequences of our sin.
This Holiday season as we’re in the middle of singing carols, baking cookies, decorating our homes and opening our gifts
remember to leave room for CHRIST.
“For unto us was born this day in the city of David a savior, which is Christ the Lord.”
“And His name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The Prince of Peace, The Mighty God, The Everlasting Father.”
As we celebrate Christ’s entrance into the world, let us try to make our world a little better.
Mend a quarrel
Call a friend
Seek out a forgotten friend
Do random acts of kindness
Give compliments, encouragement, and appreciation
Do not be critical of others
Dismiss suspicion and replace it with trust
Write a letter
Send cards of kindness
Share some treasure
Cook dinner together
Bake something and take it to a neighbor
Pay for someone else
Let others go first
Give a soft answer
Say ‘Thank You’
Encourage one another
Be loyal in word and deed
Keep a promise
Apologize if you are wrong
Try to understand and show acceptance
Express your gratitude
Welcome a stranger
Invite a friend for hot chocolate
Gladden the heart of a child
If you’ve wronged someone, fix it
If you think you’ve wronged someone, fix it
Go outdoors and take pleasure in the beauty and wonder of this earth
Make a difference
I am not talking about the other person
I am talking about you; you are the one that can make the difference.
It starts with you.
At Christmas, we tend to believe all things are possible.
“The wrong shall fail, the right prevail.”
Sin can be forgiven.
Broken relationships can be restored.
Hearts can be healed.
Try to make your little corner of the world a better place!
To those who believe:
EMMANUEL, GOD WITH US!Anonymous
Glad tidings of joy!
Love you, meant it!