The Cross of Love

My bishop says that everyone has his own cross.  Our job is to figure out what it is and take it up, cheerfully and with faith that God will give us the strength to carry it.

What is my cross?  I've been thinking about it a lot during the past few weeks, in preparation for my Advent confession.  Of all the things I struggle with, what particular burden did God intend for me to bear?  And how can bear it unto salvation, for myself and for those around me?

When I consider my trials of the last year, the things that have stretched and pushed me out of my comfort zone and into despair, the recurring theme is that I cannot do enough for my family and friends; there is simply not enough time, not enough lunches or e-mails or handmade gifts, to properly love all of the people I love.

Can love be a cross?  Is it possible that I simply have too many friends?

The idea sounds ludicrous.  And several years ago, when I received an e-mail from someone who apologized for having been irresponsible in cultivating too many relationships, spreading himself thin beyond what he could reach, I was taken aback.  But over the years I've remembered his words again and again, each time with a greater degree of sympathy, until I now think I could have written them myself.

It's never fun to have someone break up with you; in fact, it's downright miserable.  But what about the person doing the breaking up -- the person who knows she is doing the right thing, but hates to do it?  What about the awful feeling of having caused someone else pain, coupled with the inability to do anything to alleviate it?  That is what I feel each time I have to say no, each time I don't call or miss the party: as if I'm letting you down, allowing my humanity to get in the way of our friendship.  If only I could finish my work more quickly, go to bed a little later, slide by with a little less alone time!  If only I could do what I want instead of what I don't!

I stand in church and cannot hear the life-giving words of the Gospel; instead, my eyes drift over the congregation, resting on each brother and sister I have not reached out to the way I wanted.  And herein is the problem, I think: in the end, it's not about others at all, and certainly not about following the path God intends for me.  It's about running my life the way I want to run it, setting my own priorities and calling all the shots myself; trying to be everyone's best friend, everyone's rock.  But there is only one rock, and He is Christ.

So, dear friends, your Christmas cards are going out late for a reason.  Just thought you should know.