Comforting Words: Pick Up Your Cross!

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Pick Up Your Cross!

Some words give me trouble. “Responsibility” is one such.

Have you ever had “responsibility” thrust at you for something that you cannot fathom how it became yours? Ever told that you are responsible for another person’s situation in life and therefore ‘responsible’ for the cure? Even better, have you ever been accused of shirking ‘responsibility’ when you decided to do something for you?

For the most part “responsibility” is something most of us embrace. There are times and situations however, when it is exactly what we wish to avoid. Outside of the ‘routine’ obligations to children, spouses and job, how does one decide when to embrace and when to run from responsibility? Pick Up Your Cross! with me through the Words from Scripture, Words of Comfort and Words from the Heart.


From Unification Church
Sun Myung Moon, 5-1-81

“Take responsibility for the most difficult problem in your nation. Take responsibility for the most difficult problem in your church. Take responsibility for the most difficult problem of the world.”

From Confucianism
Great Learning

“The ancients who wished to manifest their clear character to the world would first bring order to their states. Those who wished to bring order to their states would first regulate their families. Those who wished to regulate their families would first cultivate their personal lives. Those who wished to cultivate their personal lives would first rectify their minds. Those who wished to rectify their minds would first make their will sincere. Those who wished to make their wills sincere would first extend their knowledge.”

(Excerpt from the Unification Church and Confucianism taken from World Scripture: A Comparative Anthology (St. Paul: Paragon House, 1995) 731, 491


It is funny how things work together for good.

Without thinking about it, the idea to write about responsibility quietly germinated in my mind as I went through my week.

It all started with a calendar sent to me each month by some dear friends and ministers in Jamaica. Containing thoughts for each day, the calendar for March is propped on my desk by the computer and I read it while waiting for it to boot up.

Whether it was their intention I do not know, but the thoughts for this past week focussed on the individual taking responsibility for their lives in all its aspects. The thought for Sunday, March 13, 2005 read: “Even marriages, made in heaven need down to earth maintenance work.” Monday’s: “God is the only third party in a marriage that can make it work.”

I have this habit of talking to inanimate objects and reading this I asked the calendar, “Why are you telling me this?” Obviously, it did not answer, at least not verbally. The thought for Tuesday reminded me that I am the all-ness of God and on Friday, again I was reminded to be thankful that I have something to do – albeit reading a pile of books for papers.

Between my seemingly one-sided conversation with the calendar, life happened and my world was shaken with an email from a friend, which prompted a telephone call to Jamaica. During this telephone call, the person on the other end of the line said, “But, Claudette, you are responsible!”

“How can that be so,” I responded, “I did not agree to that.” When the call ended, I had reason to move back to my computer and so glanced at the calendar. Though it was Friday, the reading for Wednesday came in to focus, “Instead of putting others in their place, put yourself in their place.”

“No way,” I thought. Why should I be the one to take responsibility for an occurrence thousand of miles away from me, without my prior consent or a discussion? Why is this stupid calendar telling me to put myself in the other person’s place! What about them putting themselves in my place and see that my plate is full and it simply cannot hold another morsel of problem.

Being the end of the week there was much to be done, so I stormed off to take care of ‘stuff’ and tried, unsuccessfully, to work on a paper that becomes due the following Monday. The distraction was too great. “How can I be responsible?” I kept asking myself. It then struck me as I pretended to read a book on the pastoral care response (or lack thereof) to the HIV/AIDS epidemic, particularly among the gay community and sex workers.

“All things work together for good” and there it was – the answer was before me. The daily thoughts on the calendar, the confusion in my personal life and the pastoral care response to persons living with AIDS were all pointing to moral responsibility.

To be responsible simply means - “to answer.” How one answers is a personal choice, one that will be made based on personal morals (character, conduct considered good or evil). Moral decisions may be directed primarily by faith beliefs, but not necessarily. In my case, my ruing over whether I was responsible for the confusion in my affairs was largely affected by my firm belief in a Divine Good.

Does that free the other people in my life, who caused the dilemma or are party to it? Certainly not, however as Confucius wrote in the Great Learning, those “who wished to manifest their clear character to the world would first bring order to their states.”

The Christian Scripture tells us to “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” On the cross, Jesus provides a model for this working out, for taking responsibility. His answer to the call of God was one of compassion, self-giving and serving what he believed to be the highest truth.

We all bear our crosses – that is an inescapable fact. It might come in the form of family, a spouse, children, employers or a friend. Collectively, we bear the cross of the world – children dying from hunger, people dropping like flies from HIV/AIDS, millions of women being beaten and/or raped every second on this planet.

We all have the ability to respond. How we journey with our crosses will be dictated by our morals – personal or faith-guided. The reading for Saturday on my friend the calendar was “All we need to make us happy is something to be happy about.” Smiling, I picked up my cross this morning, grateful that I could.


(Sent to me by a friend via email)

I want to thank you for what you have already done. I am not going to wait until I see results or receive rewards; I am thanking you right now. I am not going to wait until I feel better or things look better, I am thanking you right now. I am not going to wait until the people say they are sorry or until they stop talking about me, I am thanking you right now. I am not going to wait until the pain in my body disappears, I am thanking you right now. I am not going to wait until my financial situation improves, I am going to thank you right now.

I am not going to wait until the children are asleep and the house is quiet, I am thanking you right now. I am not going to wait until I am promoted at work or until I get a job, I am going to thank you right now. I am not going to wait until I understand every experience in my life that has caused me pain or grief, I am going to thank you right now. I am not going to wait until the journey gets easier or the challenges are removed. I am thanking you right now. I am thanking you because I have walked around the obstacles.

I am thanking you because I have the ability and the opportunity to do better. I am thanking you because you have not given up on me. God is good, S/he is good all the time, and so I will give thanks all the time.

Blessings, until next week.


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