In my train ride into work this morning there was a homeless man screaming at the top of his lungs. Normally, this sort of behavior would aggravate me beyond belief but something prompted me to listen. I stopped reading for a moment and decided to investigate what was happening with him. As he cursed a woman who had wronged him and the man involved I could almost see the trauma loop he was living out play before my eyes. There was so much pain in this man it was unreal.

I’m one of those people who will relive a traumatizing situation in my head years after the fact. Especially those ones where I was wronged and didn’t feel like I deserved it. In that moment, this homeless man and I were one and the same.

Naturally, I said I silent prayer for him and returned to my reading. About a paragraph in I realized how the lesson Thomas A Kempis was intending to convey actually playing out before me.

“Why do you fear to take up a cross when it can win you a Kingdom? In the cross is salvation, in the cross is life, in the cross is protection from enemies, in the cross is infusion of heavenly sweetness, in the cross is strength of mind, in the cross is joy of spirit, in the cross is highest virtue, in the cross is perfect holiness. There is no salvation of soul nor hope of everlasting life but in the cross.”

-Imitation of Christ

I know this looks like one of those ‘suffer in my namesake’ pieces but Thomas A Kempis was a member of the Modern Devotion movement. This monastic order were remnants of the Desert Mothers and Fathers. What we’re seeing lined out here is the old adage “the only way out is in.”

We don’t escape suffering in life, it’s a part of being human. Wanting to run from our pain is natural. Wanting to bury the things we do is normal. However, to experience true freedom we must learn to accept our flaws and bear them. We must learn to see ourselves in others that upset us. It’s not an easy practice by any means but it is rewarding.

So much of our selfishness is reflected in our daily lives. So much of what others do that irks us is a part of ourselves we don’t like. Yehoshua didn’t view us in that way. He saw humans suffering at their own hands. He saw the homeless man suffering through the aftermath of wrongs committed the same way he sees you and I.

Just food for thought.


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