Yesterday I was talking to one of my friends about suffering. There is no way in this world that we can avoid suffering. It comes to us all. For me, it has come in many forms throughout my life. My family was messy and there was violence within it. We constantly moved around, such that we were never in one place for more than three to six months. Thus, I never learned how to make lasting friendships. My schooling was interrupted. The effect of the violence upon me was immeasurable. I constantly expected to find one of my parents dead on the floor. Yet we had to present ourselves as a respectable, intelligent family. I had to speak correctly. Be dressed correctly. The picture that the world saw was not the real picture. Everything was done in secrecy and I had to keep the awful secret. Often my heart ached and felt so heavy and black that I did not know how I could continue to contain it. But the picture had to be kept up.
If life was not good for me as a child it was even worse as a teenager. The result was that I could not wait to get away from home. By the age of 21 I was married and things did not go brilliantly for much of the time. Then at the age of 27 I was discovered to have advanced tuberculosis. After three months in hospital on complete bed rest and barrier nursed I returned home cured, but in order to keep the tuberculosis at bay I had to be on injections and drugs for 18 months.
The worst time for me however was when it was discovered that I had and advanced blood cancer and that it had spread all over my body. Many of the tumours were massive and it was not known whether I could be cured. The expectation seemed to be that there was a grave risk of my dying.
I survived despite everything but as has already been said elsewhere on this website, I have been left blind and in a wheelchair with no feeling in my hands or feet.
There have been many other things in my life that have caused intense suffering. I have found my own way through these things but I am convinced that the only way to deal with suffering is to face it head on and not attempt to deny its existence. For many of my friends, the approach is the opposite. They wanted to hear nothing of the word suffering. Not that they have never suffered but it is as If they want to live their lives in a protected bubble.
For me the only thing that makes sense is the Cross. The only thing that gives peace is the Cross. I do not have to be or do anything at the foot of the Cross. We are now approaching Christmas and in the midst of Christmas the only thing that gives me peace is the Cross. The one who was born in a stable and not a palace was to die a cruel death on a Cross, as a common criminal.
If you don’t go with the Cross you go with the world and what the world is doing. In the Cross you have to be another way. If you don’t go with the Cross you are in denial about the reality of suffering. But it IS something. It is real.
I cannot just be with the light of Christmas. I HAVE to hold the Cross in front of me all through Christmas. The Cross is just as much part of our lives as is the stable. And following the stable was the desert and the flight into Egypt and the slaughter of the innocents. The salughter of inncoent children and adults goes on today, and will continue to do so throughout the Christmas period. People will be dying. People will be suffering. And that child born in a stable was headed for a Cross. And that is why, this Christmas, I will be holding a crucifix in my hand.