Nouwen had a decidedly different take on the concept of taking up our cross (referring back to Matthew 16:21 – “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.”) Most of the time I hear this, I hear it focusing on sacrifice. While Nouwen doesn’t deny that part of the truth of this passage, he brings in a new direction as he focuses on our own brokenness. He notes that part of taking up our cross is taking up or “claiming” our own brokenness. As he details some of the realities of pain in our lives, he asks whether we are willing to embrace our own hurt and then to put our and others’ brokenness under the blessing.
I can speak to this in my own life of how I have been growing to embrace my own brokenness. There are my struggles with depression that I used to just push away and deny their reality. While I do not “love” the fact that this is part of my own struggle, I have come to see how it is a part of who I am and how, by moving into it and not simply denying it, I have experienced the presence of Christ in the suffering like I never did before. I previously looked for Christ outside the suffering and struggles, but I think what Nouwen reminds us here is that part of taking up our cross is recognizing that Christ is there in the midst of it carrying not only his cross but helping to share our own.