As Easter approaches I have been thinking about the Cross. To the Romans, at that time, it was a means to inflict the most shame and send a resounding message of defeat. They had several methods of capital punishment but reserved crucifixion to leave a lingering message to their enemies. It was the most painful and disgraceful punishment in an arsenal that included strangulation, stoning, and burning.
Yet the lingering message the crucifixion of Jesus was not what the Romans intended. As Christians we do not see shame, defeat, or disgrace when we look at a Cross, the symbol of our faith. We see redemption and resurrection. We see victory. We see love so great that even death could not consume it.
Growing up in the Christian world I have heard, “we all have our cross to bear” countless times. In Luke 9:23 Jesus says “And He said to all, If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.”
However, “we all have our cross to bear” was almost always said to me with a negative connotation. We use it when discussing hardship or challenge. The image it would immediately bring to my mind is Jesus carrying His cross up that hill to die.
But what if that is the wrong image of the cross I bear? Am I thinking of the Roman cross or Jesus’ Cross? Upon the Roman cross is nailed a punishment but upon my Jesus’ cross there is an invitation, the sweetest of proposals. What man meant for torture and shame only by the power of God was transformed to give life and promises both for now and eternity. What was meant to kill a movement changed the entire world and every heart for those who truly believe.
My thoughts about the cross of Jesus turn to my own personal cross. What is that one thing that was meant to, or could have, destroyed me but by the power and Grace of a loving God became my triumph?
I live in a complicated, beautiful world of special needs and autism. I can’t recall the specific moment I went from being a timid, frightened mother to a banner waving, “wohoo special needs is awesome” kind of mom. It was a natural progression and at some indescribable moment the cross I carried was transformed from a death sentence to a life promise. I discovered that the cross I bear doesn’t have to be the one society gave me but must be the one God intended for me.
My mind and my heart made the decision that my cross would represent life and love and power. My faith allowed God the opportunity to give me the ability to accomplish this. Special needs could have destroyed who I was instead of transforming me into who I was meant to be.
Make no mistake, it is a difficult world in which we who love someone with special needs live. We often feel isolated and different because we are. Other mother’s of teenagers are busy going to basketball games or track meets. I am going to every sensory friendly event offered and doctor appointments with every specialist. I am often exhausted. Everything others take for granted can be and often is an overwhelming challenge to my family.
It is not easy. It is impossible to not be changed by living in the world of special needs. It is possible to decide what sort of change will take place.
The world in which we live is colorful. It is filled with hugs and joy. It isn’t about the fact that my son cannot speak, it is about the fact that he speaks with no words. Everything others take for granted can be and often is an overwhelming victory for my family. It is life amplified. The lows are heartbreaking but the highs are found in heights I could only appreciate by having a child like mine.
I do not choose whether or not I will bear a cross, I choose what my cross looks like and how I carry it. I decide whether or not it will represent shame and disgrace or the glorious promise that God works all things for good. I alone can cast my eyes down in despair or raise my chin and hold my head high.
What is the cross you must bear? Is it abandonment? Your addiction? The death of a loved one? A medical diagnosis? Mental health struggles? Guilt? Will it be a cross of shame that you hang upon despondent and alone? Or will it be a cross of promise for all to see and perhaps extract hope for themselves?
The important part to remember is the cross you bear doesn’t have to be a cross of disgrace just because society deems it so. It can become the cross of redemption, resurrection, and victory because God deems it so. He deemed it on Calvery and He deems it in your situation.
It is entirely up to you to choose which cross you will carry. The rest is up to God and He never fails.