So I was taught to chose Jesus for my heaven, whom I saw only in pain at that time. No other heaven pleased me but Jesus, who will still be my bliss when I come there. And this has always been a comfort to me, that I chose Jesus for my heaven, though his grace in all this time of suffering and sorrow. I should do so for evermore: to choose only Jesus for my heaven in both happiness and in sorrow.Julian of Norwich, Revelations of Divine Love, Chapter 19, Long Text
As she lay in bed, looking at the crucifix held up for her, Julian is in pain. As she watches a vision of Christ’s passion, she is tempted to look away, look up to the sky, look elsewhere. With all the weakness that she can muster, she chooses to remain focused upon what she was being shown, the death of Christ on the cross, his final moments.
Many years ago, during one of the first talks that I ever did in church, this phrase just popped out of my mouth; ‘if Christ is my satisfaction, what drives my dis-satisfaction’? It has stayed with me ever since. When facing hurt, disappointment, the general knocks of life, we are immediately faced with several choices; two of which are blame and distraction. Distraction is easy. I’ll just keep myself busy with other things so I don’t have to think about it. Been there. Blame, on the other hand, externalises the issue and simply makes it about the failings of others. Again, I’ve been there too. To be honest, often the last thing I feel like doing is sitting down and looking at the cross, for to do so requires me to sit still enough to begin to accept my predicament for what it is.
There are many crosses around, in some cases reduced to simply a fashion symbol; some full and some are empty. The empty ones, I find, are easier to look at; after all it’s not so much about his death as his resurrection, isn’t it? Having his body still on a crucifix is religious, old fashioned and far too Catholic many would say. I’m not so sure. His last moments on the cross were the last moments of his incarnation as humanity; suffering. His body still hanging there reminds us that he fully accepted his predicament, his suffering, his cross, because he chose it. It is too easy to dislocate his joy from his suffering, because as he hung there, both were present in equal measure, it’s just that we only get to see one of them. Occasionally, the suffering that comes to us really does has a part to play in revealing his Glory. Sometimes, the dissatisfaction I feel about my predicament can distract me from the satisfaction and joy that sharing in his suffering can bring. I’m not sure God brings suffering, but our paths of discipleship can certainly lead us into it. Unlike Julian, I’m not going to ask for it! However, it is fair to say that some of the pain of the last few years would have been turned into joy had I recognised its purpose sooner.