While in the hospital last week for my elective procedure (called a pleurodesis), I looked forward to the result, which was the removal of the tube attached to my side to drain the fluid that accumulates daily between the lining of my lung and my chest wall. Although the tube is not painful, I do consider it a cross, and I’d like to get rid of it. The process takes time, so, unfortunately, the procedure has not yet achieved the desired result, and I still have the tube for now. While I am disappointed that we did not meet the goal we wanted, I am hopeful that within the next week or two, with the actions my pulmonologist has prescribed, we can remove the tube. I am ready for my resurrected body. In the meantime during this week, Holy Week, I continue to carry the cross of the tube. Allow me to reflect a bit on Holy Week and how it relates to our personal journeys.
Holy Week is the holiest week in the Christian calendar. Throughout Lent, Christians around the world have set our faces towards Jerusalem. This past Sunday, Palm Sunday, we celebrated Jesus’ arrival in the holy city of Jerusalem on a donkey. The people welcomed him while waving palm branches in the air, shouting “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!” The week is doubly holy this year in that Passover is also being celebrated during this time. Passover is the Jewish festival celebrating the release of the Hebrews from the brutal slavery of the Egyptians, as first recorded in the biblical book of Exodus. The Hebrew people joyfully celebrate their new life of freedom after the chains of slavery were broken – resurrection of its own kind.
The joyful festive parade on Sunday stands in stark contrast to the sorrow and pain that engulfs Jesus by the end of the week. Betrayal and denial by close brothers, unanswered prayers for His suffering to be taken away, being mocked and beaten by guards, facing an unjust trial, being forced to carry his cross, and ultimately being sentenced to the most horrific death imaginable – crucifixion on the very same cross He bore. Although this is a familiar narrative for those of us who read and hear it every year, I never grow tired of it, and for me, its power never weakens.
One reason its power never decreases is that we all can identify with Jesus’ experience to a certain point. We all have crosses to bear. We all have burdens in our life that seem too heavy for us to carry; all we want is to get rid of them so we can be free. Certainly, that is the case for me regarding this cancer I’ve been living with since 2009! For you, it may be something else – a relationship that has lost its life, an addiction to something unhealthy for your body and soul that you just can’t seem to shake, dependence on behavior patterns or thought processes that are not life-giving, or holding onto past traumas in your life that you allow to rule your present. Whatever it is, usually our desire is to put the harmful habit to death and bury it so that we can emerge anew – resurrected, if you will.
Regardless of our faith tradition, we are all bound for resurrection along our journeys. There are phases in each of our lives that come to an end - our childhoods end, our high school years end, and our college years end.
Marriages end, jobs end, our children leave home, we move from one city to another. Each time one of these transitions takes place, a death of some type occurs. But that death does not have to be sad; no funeral is necessary- it is a natural part of the life-cycle. With the end of an old cycle, a new phase is before us, and we have the opportunity to become a new creation. For some, that means inhabiting a brand new body, for others, adopting a new mindset, for still others, committing to a new way of handling life’s challenges, and for others, it is the decision not to continue to live as a slave to the past but as a torchbearer of freedom from all that has held you captive.
The reality is that crosses of all kinds come and go in our lives. There are big crosses, little crosses, crosses with splinters that are easy to pull out, crosses that break our backs, and crosses that cause us to bleed internally and externally. Bearing crosses is something every human being must do at some point while walking the path of life. But the good news is that after the cross comes the crown! We must go through the valley before climbing to the mountaintop; we’ve got to get through the night before the day breaks. Let the storms come so the sunshine can break through; let us carry the cross even to the point of death so that we can then be resurrected.
Be encouraged, my friends - new life awaits you on the other side of your cross, whatever that cross is. New life awaits you on the other side of your illness and my illness, where there is hope, sunshine, and rebirth in the form of a resurrected mind, body and spirit.
Abundant Resurrection blessings to you, and see you next week!