Fear and the cross

Processed with VSCO with s2 preset“He will provide the way and the means, such as you could never have imagined. Leave it all to Him, let go of yourself, lose yourself on the cross, and you will find yourself entirely.” (St. Catherine of Siena)

I count the children in the pew a few rows up. Seven. Wait, the mother is wearing one too. That makes eight. A few rows ahead, six. I watch another mother chase her son to the back of the church only to realize he has, somehow, already made a full circle back to the front and is dashing across the room in sight of the whole congregation.

My own toddler walks and falls, walks and falls, in the back of the church. She leans against the windows of the cry room and bumps her head on the glass—purposely—again and again. We go out into the lobby instead where she inevitably finds the staircase hidden away in a dark corner. The baby in my womb kicks and somersaults and suddenly I can hardly breathe, let alone lift a protesting, back-arching fifteen month old because I just can’t imagine chasing her up the stairs. A mom herds three children out of the doors and settles onto a bench. I feel exhausted just looking at her.

Is this my foreseeable future? I am so tired, and I only have one. Is this where I am asked to attend the Supper of the Lamb for the next countless years of my life, on the other side of heavy doors, listening to the words of consecration through lobby speakers?

Lamb of God, have mercy on us.

I kneel and feel dread sink into my heart. I love my babies. I love this one that I know, and this one that I have yet to come to know. But I am afraid. Afraid of what will be asked of me in the future. Afraid of more kids, and then even more kids. Afraid that my life will be full of herding children in and out of mass, the grocery store, the (large) van, the bathroom, the house, the park. I know there is beauty in all of that, I do. I know that life enlarges love, and with each new life, there is only more love; but sometimes it is hard to remember.

Is this really what you are going to ask of me, Lord?

I lift my eyes, and there is the Lord, hanging on a cross. This is what He asks of me. Sacrifice. Self-gift. Suffering. Love. It does not matter, and I need not fear, the means by which he brings me to the cross with Him. I fear the means that He will use to bring me to Himself. How silly that sounds when I realize it. In the end we are all asked to join Him in this act of dying, each in different ways, all of them painful and hard but ultimately life-giving. And these little ones are not keeping me from praying. They are prayer. They are the Lord bringing me to Himself; not in silence and contemplation, but in sacrifice and in an offering of my life for theirs.

He desires only union with me. Communion. Oneness. Love. Divine life. Sonship. And He offers me the means to that end. I need not fear them.

Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.

5 thoughts on “Fear and the cross

  1. Greg Wilhelm

    Congratulations on the coming event!
    A Poem that I have resorted to for encouragement to persevere.

    From an old English parsonage down by the sea
    There came in the twilight a message to me;
    Its quaint Saxon legend, deeply engraven,
    Hath, it seems to me, teaching from Heaven.
    And on through the hours the quiet words ring
    Like a low inspiration: “DOE THE NEXTE THYNGE.”

    Many a questioning, many a fear,
    Many a doubt, hath its quieting here.
    Moment by moment, let down from Heaven,
    Time, opportunity, guidance, are given.
    Fear not tomorrows, child of the King,
    Trust them with Jesus; “DOE THE NEXTE THYNGE.”

    Oh, He would have thee, daily more free,
    Knowing the might of thy royal degree;
    Ever in waiting, glad for His call,
    Tranquil in chastening, trusting through all.
    Comings and goings no turmoil need bring;
    His all thy future; “DOE THE NEXTE THYNGE.”

    Do it immediately, do it with prayers;
    Do it reliantly, casting all care;
    Do it with reverence, tracing His hand
    Who placed it before thee with earnest command.
    Stayed on Omnipotence, safe ‘neath His wing,
    Leave all resulting; “DOE THE NEXTE THYNGE.”

    Looking to Jesus, ever serener,
    Working or suffering, be thy demeanor;
    In His dear presence, the rest of His calm,
    The light of His countenance be thy psalm,
    Strong in His faithfulness, praise and sing.
    Then as He beckons thee; “DOE THE NEXTE THYNGE.”

    Emily Elizabeth Steele Elliott (1836-1897)

  2. Danielle

    Beautifully written. As an older single, this is a good reminder that being asked to lay down our lives and live sacrificially bridges all seasons and circumstances. Thank you for sharing!
    Danielle (from Crossway)

  3. Elizabeth Grzesiak

    Shannon, thank you for your beautiful meditation. I was wondering today, as our little one squirmed her way across the pew, when I was ever going to get to pray again. I’m so happy I found your blog.

    Bitsy

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