From: The Way of the Cross
The problem with life is that it never really gets resolved. What’s more, the same issue that tested our mettle the first time we attempted it leaves us in doubt that we should ever attempt it again. The things that confuse us the first time we deal with them are just as likely to make us wonder about them the second time around as well. Certainty is a chimera. All we really know for sure is that what we did last time in dealing with a problem either did or didn’t work. Will the same thing work again? Who knows?
This station touches the deepest part of that truth. Faced with something that bested us the last time we met it, the whole thought of dealing with it again can make the heart go weak. How can we even dare to think of getting up and going on again? In fact, why even bother to try?
Doubt is one of the great spiral challenges of life. We live with it at one level or another every day of our lives. We suffer from it even more when what we did to conquer it the first time was more accident than strategy. What if that same kind of blind happenstance does not save us now?
It is doubt that brings us to wrestle with the very foundations upon which our life is built. Can we do this thing? Should we do this thing? Why is this thing even worth trying to do? Why even try to do the impossible – to stretch ourselves beyond the normal, the average, the clearly possible?
And if we try it again and we fail, then what?
The second effort makes or breaks the average person. The second effort either deadens the soul to the rest of life or redefines us to ourselves. The second effort becomes the “I can’t” trap, the point after which we never try again, or it becomes the “I can” truth that lifts us to a new level of courage forever.
Here in the seventh station we see Jesus fall again, more tired this time, more dejected this time, even less committed, perhaps. Why not just die in the dirt? Why try to get up at all?
It is the eternal question of life in general. More important, it is the question of the spiritual life, too.
The spiritual life is not a walk in the breeze. It is the solemn, sacred effort to make life count, to make good on what we set out to make of ourselves, to become the wholeness of our spiritual selves. And the energy it takes is exhausting. But the spirit it takes to keep going on past the physical, psychological, spiritual ability to go on is of the essence of greatness.
The call to holiness, to witness, to commitment is undeniable now: The Jesus who falls a second time gets up a second time determined to see this cross through to the end.
The call to live our lives to the pinnacle of the truth within us, however impossible it may seem along the way, is a clarion one. We are each here to give our best and give our all in the service of the will of God for us. There is no going back. There is no staying down when we fall down. We bother to get up and try again because we said we would. There is only the answer of Isaiah: Here I am, Lord. Send me. (Isaiah 6:8)
The seventh station of the cross reminds us that obstacles are a regular, a normal, even a necessary part of life. It is the obstacles we meet along the way, the problems we overcome, the setbacks we survive that measure the value of the enterprise at hand. They give us both perspective and wisdom. Once we have stumbled but continued the race, collapsed but not quit, fought and endured, no pain is too much, no cost too heavy to pay for what is worth our laying down our lives for it.
The questions with which the seventh station confronts us are grave ones. Is there anything important enough in our lives, our goals, our faith for which we are willing to endure both pain and doubt, even when going on seems to be impossible? Is there any pain worth more than the desire to run away from it? And if not, what kind of spiritual life can possibly be sculpted out of a life lived only on the surface of glitz and the passing pleasures of the moment?
We are risen to a new level of life when we come to understand that the ultimate purpose of life is to focus ourselves on something worth struggling beyond our strength to attain. It is the moment of freedom in us. Then it doesn’t matter whether we win or lose in the process. What is important is that we give ourselves to something big enough to grow beyond ourselves to gain.
The very act of throwing ourselves into the wrestling match of the soul makes us a beacon of hope for those who come behind us. There is no such thing as weakness for those who are strong enough to keep on trying.
As Mary Pickford said of these moments, Today is a new day. You will get out of it just what you put into it. If you have made mistakes, even serious mistakes, there is always another chance for you. And supposing you have tried and failed again and again, you may have a fresh start any moment you choose. The message is a clear one: It is the choices we make that determine who we really are in the end. It is not the mistakes we make that make us small, it is choosing to surmount them that makes us great.
Being willing to get up again in the attempt to live life well is the resurrection moment in the seventh station.