March 19, 2014 - Whether you are religious or not, there is in every life challenges and burdens we carry that weigh heavy on us.
Some of those are what I call holy crosses. They are the burdens we bear because they are the right thing to do.
They can include but are not limited to carrying for aging parents, fully engaging in the highs and lows of marriage, parenting and all significant relationships.
Holy crosses can be the work we do to improve our community such as volunteering. All of these take work and on some days are joy-filled and on other days feel draining.
What makes moments like these holy is that we do not give up on them.
We keep recommitting our lives to these efforts because the results are not best measured on any given day. They are better evaluated over the long course of time.
The blessing of marriage and family as well as the efforts in improving community are greatest after a life of carrying those crosses.
There are unholy crosses. These are the burdens we carry that diminish life. They are the crosses of attitudes and behaviors that over a period of time make spirits brittle and drive away hope.
These can include but are not limited to guilt, shame, inability to give or receive forgiveness, living with fear, apathy or hate. Unholy crosses kill the soul, destroy community and instill cynicism and despair.
The inability to forgive and be forgiven, for example, freezes us into a cycle of hostility and dysfunction.
When there are wrongs committed between people, it is natural to feel pain. Lashing out and retreating are natural human responses.
However this behavior only creates more brokenness and makes justice and reconciliation impossible to achieve.
In a chapter on Forgiveness, I recently wrote there are three critical truths that can help us lay down the unhealthy cross of withheld forgiveness. They are:
• Forgiveness that heals hearts and relationships begins before transgressions occur. Forgiveness is a decision of the character that determines who we will be. It is not about what was done to us. It is more about what kind of person are you.
• The offering of forgiveness and its acceptance determines whether we will live tomorrow imprisoned or free. The person affected by our gift of receiving or giving forgiveness more than anyone is us. How do you want to live?
• Real forgiveness is the courage to let go so something better can emerge. When we hold on to wrongs done to us or the guilt we carry for our mistakes, we remove the chance to hold on to new blessings and possibilities.
This season of Lent, our congregation is focused on the Crosses We Carry. For all, perhaps now is the time to reflect on the emotional, spiritual and relational crosses you are carrying. It is a great time to recommit to the holy ones and lay down the ones do not bring new life.
The Rev. Richard L. Dake is pastor of Clarkston United Methodist Church