I’ve heard it said before that the English language is one of the hardest ones to learn. With all of its intricacies and contradictions, I have no doubt that if English isn’t your native tongue, it is indeed a struggle to navigate and comprehend. Take homophones for one example: words that sound exactly the same but are spelled differently and do not have the same meanings. Baffling, yes?
Case and point: bare and bear.
Bare \bār\ adj: open to view: UNCONCEALED, EXPOSED
Bear \bār\ vb: to move while supporting: CARRY*
When I consider these two words I automatically think of The Cross. And when I think of The Cross I have a tendency to revisit Easter.
Personally, in most recent years, I have felt more strongly than ever that Easter is Kind of a Big Deal; even more so, to me, than Christmas. As far as I am concerned, if there ever was a moment that marked or served as the foundation of Christian faith, Easter is it.
He is Risen. Indeed. Just As He said.
So every year I commit to forcing myself to watch all of Mel Gibson’s The Passion Of the Christ, in an attempt to relive some of those Easter moments. When the film first premiered 14 years ago, my husband and I watched it at a cush and swanky movie theater in Melbourne, Australia. I vaguely recall wine being served. I remember leather reclinable seats too. As physically comfortable as my surroundings were, I recollect spending most of our viewing time with my tear laden face buried in the backrest of my chair sobbing uncontrollably, a stomach tied in knots and a spirit writhing in hopelessness.
The realization of the depths of humanity will often get me bawling too.
Cinema is cinema. I am aware that it’s all make-up, camera angles, dramatic music, theatrics and acting. I appreciate aesthetics. I have reverence for efforts towards accurate depictions. I do know that everyone in the movie is playing a thoughtfully scripted part; that they all changed their Roman Day costumes, wiped the fake blood from their skin and returned to the comforts of their Modern Day lives, when all was said and done.
If I could separate out those things from the story that is being told, 14 years later - my eyes having seen those scenes many a time - I could watch unaffected. But it’s a choice I make. I don’t want to separate Jim Caviezel from Jesus Christ and become desensitized to this integral and heart crushing part of our Lord’s story. Our story.
I desire to be deeply affected. I am compelled to feel great empathy.
Every year though, as the scene of Jesus falling to the dusty ground rolls across the screen, His body severely beaten and bloodied, His human frailty laid bare under the weight of a massive crucifix … every year, I am taken aback by the fact that, once again, I have failed to remember Simon of Cyrene.
Simon – the unsuspecting passerby who helped the God of Creation carry His cross. The Cross. Our Cross.
It may be bold of me to say that, as Jesus did, “We all have crosses to bare”. But we do … by way of vulnerability; choosing to openly share our struggles in an effort to “be real” and forge strong human-to-human bonds with one another. Fear might just be the thing that chokes out our words and keeps us from disclosing our, seemingly un-bare-able, realities.
… Fear that has us hiding truths about diseases that riddle parts of our bodies making life miserable, or that finds us covering egregious choices that leave us and those connected to us broken and scarred, or that permits us to avoid ownership of our missteps and wayward ways. Sometimes fear makes us unaccepting of our frailty, keeps us from seeking forgiveness, or insists we continuously project a false-self.
And then too, “We all have crosses to bear”. Yes we do … by way of humility. And the most humble way I can think of to take up your cross and follow Jesus, is by letting others lift it up with you to share the load. Pride might just be the thing that gives us permission to reject the help of others and their acts of service.
… Help that offers relief and looks like a meal for our tables, flowers on our doorsteps, or banana breads in our mailboxes. Sometimes it is a “chauffeured” vehicle to doctors appointments and errands, or its encouragement through words typed out in a text message, and its an ear and heart listening to guide us through some spiritual processing of pain and uncertainty.
I haven’t yet found anything in the Bible that speaks of Simon of Cyrene before or after his fateful moment and co-starring role in history. Personally I don’t think it much matters where he came from before he met Jesus, or even where he went to after. His brief appearance is an impactful reminder of what we Easter Believers and Christian Disciplers are all called to do:
To not only “take up our crosses”, but also to be Simons of Cyrene, “laying down our lives” … our time, our agendas, our hearts … for one another.
So in examining and sharing our burdens through the lens of a desire to place the Glory of our God on display, please ask yourself:
What is it that I need to stop hiding and lay bare for others to see?
What burden is it that I need to allow others to help me carry and bear the weight of?
...so that they too may believe.
Jesus showed us the way. Let us continue to follow His lead.
*Taken from Mirriam-Webster’s Dictionary and Thesaurus