MaryBeth Eberhard ponders the crosses we carry on our pilgrimage through the Lenten season.
This year as I prepared for Lent, I began to ask Jesus to show me what He wanted me to give up. What sacrifice could I make that would be great enough to form me closer to Him? How could I show my devotion to Him more clearly? Nothing. Radio silence.
All I could see was how hard my days felt already. But I was determined to offer more. I had my list and much on the list was good to sacrifice during Lent but it felt like I was still “doing” and not giving … “What if I am the more?” he kept asking in my prayer. "I am the more."
Venerable Fulton Sheen once said, “We would all like to make our own crosses, but since the Lord did not make His own, neither do we make ours.”
I like things neatly packaged up, but life isn't made of pretty paper and pretty ribbons wrapped perfectly and tied with a bow. The depth of life is found when we root ourselves in Christ.
Sometimes we enter Lent not knowing what our sacrifice will be. Sometimes just entering is all we have to give. It’s a yes to where the Lord is leading. Many saints were formed when in challenging times they simply trusted the Lord enough to go where He was calling, even when they did not understand.
As Catholics, we use the word pilgrimage to describe a trip with a particular spiritual focus that will lead to a closer encounter with God. There are obvious ones such as Rome or Jerusalem. I have yet to go there, but I have made smaller trips to local shrines and through them have drawn closer to Jesus.
- A pilgrimage is a trip where you step away to dig deeper, to find where you belong and where your roots are.
- A pilgrimage is a step towards something or someone. It’s a "yes, God" moment. "I will go, if You lead me."
I would venture to say that life is our greatest pilgrimage. We are in Lent and Lent is all about offerings and sacrifice. A pilgrimage is an offering where we set out to grow closer to the God who created us. It’s a desert experience with some radiant sunrises and sunsets mixed through the days. What does a desert feel like? It is hot. It is long. It can feel lonely. Chick-Fil-A is closed, and it is not even Sunday.
Life can feel this way. Often. But as Christians we must trust that God is working even when we don’t see it.
We’ve all had desert experiences. Some are more visible than others, right? My husband and I raise our children to say "We all have a disability; some we see and some we do not." The same goes for our crosses. Some you see and some you do not. But they are there nonetheless.
I've noticed that in those experiences, I am the closest I can be to Jesus. Our desert experiences render us dependent upon Jesus. We are so empty. We have no control. We turn to the Father and cry out for help. And Our Father in heaven never leaves us orphans. He picks us up and carries us. Some of us might have already entered our Lent that way. We have already begun that pilgrimage.
This Lent, I am taking stock of the crosses I carry and really leaning into them. How can they form me closer to the heart of Jesus? Can I sit with them instead of burying them or resenting them? Can I actually get to a place where I am thankful for the crosses, where I want to pick them up and walk forward? I am taking time to look around and see who God has placed with me to help me carry them, for there’s a Simon of Cyrene present in everyone’s life in some form. God does not leave us orphans. He gives us enough manna for today and that manna can be in the form of an encouraging word, a meal to our door, a text with a prayer or a smile from the nurse who comes in to help when we have no words.
Lord, during this Lenten pilgrimage, help us to walk boldly toward your Kingdom, and offer our crosses for your greater glory.
Copyright 2023 MaryBeth Eberhard
About the Author
MaryBeth Eberhard spends most of her time laughing as she and her husband parent and school their eight children. She has both a biological son and an adopted daughter who have a rare neuromuscular condition called arthrogryposis and writes frequently about the life experiences of a large family and special needs. Read more of her work at MaryBethEberhard.com.