The checkout aisle betrayed me with a kiss.
We had gathered all the items on our list. We had made a successful compromise: no to toys, yes to character band-aids. We had taken our place in line – my three children, my 9-month pregnant belly, and I.
And then the consumerist tempter showed up.
He was armed with cases of candy bars and bags of chips. Overpriced toys and useless junk. For the sake of money, he turned me over to be tortured and crucified in public.
My poor sweet children, who had done so well up to now, couldn’t help themselves. They had to have it all, but I said no. They begged. They grabbed. They whined. They haven’t yet mastered impulse control, and once they get started, there’s no stopping them.
Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.
Exhausted from growing this baby, I held the most persistent child securely in one arm while I loaded the conveyor belt with the other. The cashier saw the strain of heightened emotions in my clenched jaw.
“Are you okay?” she asked.
I nodded, even though I wasn’t.
She saw my need. She was my Simon of Cyrene. “I’ll load your cart, honey.” I whispered my thanks as I swiped my card. She gave me a smile as she picked up my cross for a moment or two.
My grocery store way of the cross had only just begun. Every week we make two stops. First, Wal-Mart for things like vitamins and dairy free butter and trash bags that don’t rip on the way to the dumpster. Then off to Aldi for everything else.
I still had a long road ahead of me. As we switched stores, I prayed for grace.
Jesus, give me meekness. Help me to be silent as a lamb led to the slaughter. Help me open not my mouth in anger. Give me strength to love my children and get all our groceries.
My grocery store way of the cross had only just begun. Tweet this.
Stubbornness runs in my family, and my children inherited their fair share. Once they had their hearts set on that checkout line junk, they weren’t going to forget it so easily. No, they were going to show me what happens when I don’t bend to their will. They were going to test my resolve. They were going to make me pay.
Up and down the aisles I carried the cross of fallen human nature. The cross of stubbornness and pride.
I was crushed under the weight of every unrealistic demand. I was flogged by the mental burden of trying to remember all the essentials, while shouldering the physical burden of keeping my children from bolting or filling our cart with junk food or knocking over displays.
One more checkout aisle. I could see the end of my long road. This time it took an arm hold and a knee squeeze to keep my children with me while I paid. We headed straight for the car, avoiding further eye contact.
Up until now I had mostly kept my cool. I had held my composure in the public eye. I had done my best to meet my kids’ needs and show the world the face of love. But it was more than I could carry on my own.
I put the kids and the groceries safely into the car. Then I closed the back hatch to silence the screams of: “I’m not going to buckle up!”
And, right then and there, I began to sob. In public. In the middle of the crowded parking lot. I stood between my car and my empty shopping cart and wept into my hands.
“Why?” I silently pleaded. Why, for the sake of money, do the grocery stores sabotage moms in the checkout lines? Why haven’t I been able to quell the inevitable shopping tantrum? Why does life have to be so hard?
Then came my Veronica. A total stranger. She wrapped me in a hug and pressed my tear-streaked face into her shoulder.
“It’s hard. It’s okay. I understand,” she comforted as I tried to pull myself together.
But her compassion wrecked me. All I could do was soak her sweater with my tears. Finally, I sighed a deep breath of release. She stepped back and promised, “I’m going to pray for you.”
As I returned my cart and, strengthened, resumed my battle to get all my kids buckled and convince them to stay that way, I realized something.
My suffering is not about me. My way of the cross is not about my pain and my hurt.
It’s about grace. It’s about relationship and love.
My suffering is not about me. Tweet this.
When Jesus walked that first Way of the Cross, it wasn’t about Him at all. It was about His love for us. It wasn’t a morbid obsession with pain, but rather a willing sacrifice to afford us saving grace.
He went through all that suffering for love of every human on the face of the earth: past, present, future. And the times when that love was shared back with Him – those times kept Him going strong. When he had the helping hand of Simon, the loving gaze of His mother, the comfort of Veronica.
Those were the momentary grace-breakthroughs in an otherwise bleak and dark day. Those were the reminders of what’s to come – of the trial transformed to grace.
On my bad days, I’m called to take up my small cross and follow Him. But not because it’s somehow good for me to hurt. Not for the sake of the pain itself. Not for any morbid reason.
No, I take up my cross for the sake of the doorways it opens to grace. For a chance to follow Jesus, seeking virtue and faith along the way. I embrace my cross because I know that love is the fruit of this suffering.
And in my way of the cross, I experience the unexpected joy of love and relationship. The face of a stranger who cares. A passer-by who has the chance to reach out and touch the heart of Jesus suffering in me.
In my way of the cross, I experience the unexpected joy of love and relationship. Tweet this. Tweet this.
God loved me every step of my grocery store way of the cross. He loved me through the cashier He sent to be my Simon. And through the lady in the parking lot He sent to be my Veronica. He loved me through an outpouring of grace and an opportunity to pray.
Suffering without love is Hell.
Suffering with love is the Cross.
And the Cross always leads to the Resurrection.
Jesus, thank You for giving me the opportunity to walk the way of the Cross with You for a short while. Thank You for calling me to pray in my time of trial. Thank You for sending me people to show me the light of Your love even in the darkness of my trials.
Please grant that I may grow closer to You through uniting my small passion to Your Passion. Help me grow in holiness and virtue. Give me the grace to love You more and to share that love with those You place in my life.
Father, if possible, take this grocery-store-cup away from me. But… my family has to eat… So, not my will, but Yours be done.
Father, if possible, take this grocery-store-cup away from me… Tweet this.
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