I’ve always struggled with Jesus’ words: “take up your cross and follow me.” Hearing my pastor, Jane Larsen Wigger talk about it at the beginning of Lent this year set me on a new perspective (my own, not Jane’s necessarily).
What if “the way of the cross” is the way of weakness and vulnerability? What if Catherine Keller is right (On the Mystery) in pointing to the power of God shown in the cross–the ultimate and infinite vulnerability of love. Keller quotes John Caputo: “The perverse core of Christianity lies in being a weak force.” (Keller, p. 84).
What if the suffering that is required in taking up one’s cross is broader and deeper than simply death, but involves a life of vulnerability?
Daniel Day Williams included in his powerful description of Love (The Spirit and Forms of Love, 1968) the notion of suffering, by which he meant “the capacity to be acted upon, to be changed, moved, transformed by the action of or in relation to another.” (p. 117). To love, he said, is to freely put oneself in relation to another free person and allow that commitment to limit and change one’s own life and freedom.
Watching the lovely underrated film “Love and Other Drugs” brought this point home to me. Jake Gyllenhaal plays a self-centered jerk who eventually decides to love Anne Hathaway’s character in her struggle with Parkinson’s disease. “I can’t ask you to take this on,” she pleads. He responds with something like “You’re not asking–I’m offering.” In his free choice to stay with her in her obvious progressive disability, he suffers the limitation and transformation of love. In that moment, I think he has taken up his cross!