We were walking down Rundle Street just before 9 last Friday night and crossed paths with the Rundle Mall street preachers.
(For those of you not from the beautiful city of Adelaide, these are men who have taken it upon themselves to scream at and shame shoppers in Rundle Mall every Friday evening in an attempt to save their souls from eternity in hell. If you look at the photo at the top of this post, you’ll see the content of most of their rants and you may also notice the irony of the placard’s first line and the man’s face adjacent it.)
Back to Friday night.
Coming towards us was this gang of several rather sombre-looking men, one of them carrying a large almost life-sized cross made of timber. I made a comment to Vicki how mean the cross-bearer looked, and then looked down to notice, to my surprise, that the cross had wheels.
Imagine 2,000 years ago as an exhausted and beaten Jesus made his way carrying his cross up the Via Dolorosa to the place of his execution. He is so depleted, he falls under the substantial weight of the cross. A nearby man–we know him only as Simon– is co-opted into carrying the cross for him.
His cross didn’t have wheels.
Truth is, we all have wheels on our crosses. We struggle to make sense of tragedy and loss, but we have access to professional counsellors and therapists to help us through the trauma. We face loss of income through redundancy, but we have government and employer-funded programs and training options to aid us in getting back into the workforce. A burglar breaks into our home and steals our most valuable possessions, but we are insured.
Wheels on our crosses.
We really don’t know what suffering is until we are in a place, a state, a circumstance where there is no safety net, no lifeline . . . no wheels . . .
Maybe that’s why, when things take a wrong turn and seem to be crumbling around us, we use the phrase, “The wheels fell off.”
Unless we have been in such a hopeless, helpless predicament, there is no way we can truly understand the agony of being powerless, resource-less, friendless. Until we must carry our cross alone (sans wheels) we cannot fathom the pain and weariness of Jesus.
I wonder if that may be what Lent is all about: putting ourselves in the place of Jesus and imagining what life would be like in the way of the cross. Perhaps in doing this, we may not only gain a new appreciation for our own lot in life–however ordinary it may seem–but also a clearer perspective on the suffering that surrounds us in our world.
And perhaps we, we might be the wheels on someone else’s cross.