My favorite flowers have always been peonies. These bushy, big headed, rose scented flowers are just so beautiful to behold. I have a few bushes planted in my front yard and every May when they bloom they bring with them an abundance of joy. The only problem I have with them is that I always have to remember to stake them. As they are growing they stand up nice and tall, but when they bloom, their heads are so large that the whole plant instantly falls over and I end up having these gorgeous flowers drooping over my driveway. The years I am organized and remember to stake them, the blooms stand tall when they open. Inevitably a few may droop as a reminder to me how important each stake is.
Recently in prayer I was complaining to Jesus about a certain cross I have been carrying for quite a while now. His answer to me was “All the prettiest flowers in my garden are held up by crosses” I instantly remembered my beautiful peonies and how they relied on the stake they were tied to in order to stand tall. I imagined a field of them held up with crosses, no drooping heads to be seen.
I remembered what Jesus told His disciples in the gospel of Matthew about carrying their cross. 16 24 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 25 For whoever wants to save their life[f] will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. 26 What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? 27 For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what they have done.
I started to inspect my cross more closely. I realized that I had gained so many graces through this one cross. Because of this cross, my prayer life had become deeper. “Lord to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life” (jn 6:68). I also realized that I had grown in patience, endurance and humility. Looking deeper I realized that this cross was what had led me back to Christ. While I had never really left, my relationship was nowhere near what I experience now. I spent hours contemplating the wonders of this cross. My husband and children had also benefited from the cross since they grew in compassion and many other virtues.
Someone once told me that I would one day thank Jesus for my cross and I had ducked my head, looked the other way and said “not today.” The thought of thanking Him for all this physical pain, frustration and emotional hurt was foreign to me. After reflecting on the cross and all I had received from it, I realized that I had begun to embrace it without noticing and because of it I was able to stand firm in my faith, enveloped by love and was being transformed into a new creation. I realized that in my darkest moments the cross had not been crushing me but instead was the reason I stood. Unbelievable to me at the beginning of my journey; I now embrace my cross and thank God daily for it, for with this cross comes an abundance of grace. Another gift that came with this cross was being able to join Jesus in His saving work, by offering up all my sufferings for the conversion of sinners. My suffering has value (so does yours)- Bishop Fulton Sheen used to be heard saying as he walked down hospital hallways – “so much wasted suffering.”
I always compare God to a parent, and often can understand His perfect love through my imperfect love. I thought of my children and when they are having a bad day or are going through a certain trial- how I try to be more present to them, more comforting, and do all that I can, without enabling them, to help them to get through this tough time. I can imagine my loving Father in heaven doing just the same. Standing back knowing how much stronger I would be when I overcame this trial, offering me love and support. I believe God has poured out more grace during this time than at any other time in my life. “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me” 2 Cor 12:9
I implore you today as you read this to reassess your cross(es). How have they brought you closer to God? How have they changed you? Have they increased your mercy towards others because you now understand what suffering they are enduring? Has this cross brought people into your life you never imagined would? Has this cross allowed you to be a blessing in another person’s life? How has this cross helped you to stand firmer in your faith journey? I will end by repeating what Jesus told me “All the prettiest flowers in my garden are held up by crosses.” Let those words sink into your soul today and bring you closer to our loving God.