The Cross, I know, is the way of life. At least, I tell myself I know this on the days when the daffodils bob their sun-speckled heads in the breeze, when the sky is a laughing blue, when my skirt rustles as I walk, reminding me that I am becoming a grownup, becoming a woman, becoming good things.
But can I say, The Cross is the way of Life on the bad days? The storm-cloud days, when my work looms larger than my mind seems capable of handling, when I snap at my siblings, judge my friends, sulk and mope at being "misunderstood", and when there is an ache running from the base of my skull through my shoulders I just can't shake? Are those the moments when I say, in the words of Marcus Aurelius, "To bear this worthily is good fortune."? When I remind myself, "He said pick up your cross and follow me. So let's go."
I'm learning to. Far more than Hilary in 2008, who ran to and from the Cross like a child who can't decide if she needs to hold tight to Mom's hand or if Mom is the opponent, the withholder. In 2009, I was slightly older, very slightly wiser, seeing the Cross for the first time as the place I went, not where "the family" went. In 2010 (last year), I was weak and knew it, tired from the weight of self-judgment, tired from the desire to achieve and prove myself... and I knew somehow that I had to take it to the Cross.
And now it is 2011. I've started trying to spend some time every day in "the quiet place." The one where all the critical lines of my face dissolve. The place where I leave the storm- crawl out from beneath my own fear and anguish, face flushed from the howling wind. Where my whole body listens. Where I am finally, utterly still. Where my heart beats out prayer. Where I meet Peace.
And so I know that the Cross is the way of life. But it is this year, with the sadnesses, large and small, and the departures, the joys and the laughter - this year that tells me, this is also the way of Peace. This is the road to the quiet place, is itself the quiet place.
I whisper "thank you" for reminding me that this week is the way of Peace. That an extra ten minutes in the good real words of the slim Manual of Occasional Prayers Julie gave my 2008 year old self is food for my hunger. That I can breathe the Jesus prayer: O Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner like I breathe air.
For His hand at my back propelling me forward, even as I turn back and yearn for some stormy weather, yearn for a dramatic problem (you just won't believe what happened to me!), for attention, for reassurance, for the orbit of the world to collapse into me. It is 2011, years after the first few moments where I put my fingers on the trembling heartbeat of the world, put my hands in His side, all doubting and fearful... and behold, I recognize the way of life and peace.
Now, I pray, O Lord, help me to walk in it.
Pray with me (from the Anglican Book of Common Prayer):
Almighty God, whose most dear Son went not up to joy but
first he suffered pain, and entered not into glory before he
was crucified: Mercifully grant that we, walking in the way
of the cross, may find it none other that the way of life and
peace; through the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who
liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God,
for ever and ever. Amen