The other day I was in the sacristy at church looking over the readings and preparing to serve as the lector and I ran into Ralph, the altar server. I glanced up from my reading and in our society’s ritualistic manner of greeting said,
“How are ya Ralph?”
Expecting the typical ritualistic response, “Fine and how are you Amy?” I was surprised when, with a grin and a nod, he simply said,
“I’m ok, just carrying my cross today.”
My cross that week was feeling especially heavy and so I smiled, nodded, and said,
“Yep, me too Ralph, me too.”
Ralph’s simple response and our exchange meant more to me than the other possible options. In those few seconds Ralph gave me an honest response. It wasn’t a fake, let me hide who I am and pretend life is a bowl of cherries response. But neither was it a litany of complaints or a “woe is me” response. It was both real and yet hopeful.
In that simple statement Ralph was honest about the fact that his life right now isn’t necessarily easy. And yet his words were full of hope because they were so Christ focused. Ralph understands that Jesus calls us to carry our cross and when life presents those crosses we shouldn’t be surprised. He also knows we shouldn’t be completely overwhelmed because there’s grace. Hence the smile and the nod.
In that brief exchange I felt like I saw a piece of Ralph’s heart which gave me the freedom to in turn share mine. No need to share all the details or have a long drawn out intimate conversation. No, the 17 words we shared were more than enough for some genuine Christian fellowship. And more than enough for Ralph to share a bit of hope with me.
I’m not alone on my journey. You’re not alone on this journey. We’re on this journey together. We each carry our cross but we carry it with the hope of something better in the future. And we carry it by grace. Sometimes that grace comes in unexpected ways. On that day, Ralph was a bit of God’s grace sent to lighten the load of my cross. Thank you Ralph.
“How are ya Ralph?”