The cross Jesus invites us to share is not the same as illness, accident, or an unhappy life. Our cross is our free choice to lift the burden of suffering from another person. We can recognize our own cross by special signs, in many ways similar to the general signs of guidance.
--We are set free to choose our own cross or refuse it.
--We will feel a deep, authentic calling to our cross.
--Though the pain and sacrifice are real, we will also experience a definite joy, strength, and renewal at our center, even though they sometimes will grow dim temporarily.
--Our ability to love will deepen.
--We will observe signs of fruitfulness, some positive results and response, at least at times. (Consistent lack of any positive results, consistent frustration, and blocks may indicate we have picked up the wrong cross).
--An "angel" will be sent to comfort and strengthen us, even as one was sent to Jesus in Gethsemane. The angel usually comes in unexpected ways: a person, a book, an experience of beauty, a lifting of the heart, and so on. But it always brings comfort. Who or what have been your angels when you needed them?
--A "Simon of Cyrene" will also be sent to help us lift our cross, our commitment, our chosen task of love, in very practical ways, even as Simon of Cyrene carried the cross beam for Jesus. Our Simons also come in many different ways with definite and solid assistance. It is helpful to recollect our past Simons.
If these signs are not present, we may have taken a cross--committed ourself to a task--that was meant for someone else. Why do we make such mistakes? At times of decision, all other signs of guidance seem to be present; only later do we realize that no joy, no pastures--either outer or inner--abide in our choice.
Flora Slosson Wuellner
Enter by the Gate: Jesus' 7 Guidelines When Making Hard Choices (Upper Room, 2004, pp. 74-75.