The Cross and The Crucifix


On Holy Thursday I stared yet again into the black night of all that feels too heavy to carry, raging against this God who somehow expects my back to be strong enough to bear the load.  I want to put it down.  I want to make it stop.  I cannot do this.

On Good Friday, I read His words.

"The cup that my Father has prepared for me, shall I not drink it?"

And it cut me to the core, because of course I will.  He prepared it for me.  

(Sometimes He doesn't, I know that.  Sometimes bad things happen because of the sin of human beings, sometimes they just happen.  I know God didn't "prepare" my oldest son's sufferings; they were the result of a fallen, broken, hurting world.  But I do know He prepared mine.  I know it because of how the weight of it has gloriously ruined me in all the right ways.)

I used to have a problem with crucifixes.  "He's not on the cross anymore!  He rose, He's alive! Don't leave Him on the cross!", I said.

There would be no Resurrection without the Crucifixion.  But the Crucifixion is ugly, it's embarrassing, it's well... sad.  And we like our religion to feel good.

But that was years and tears ago and I don't even have the luxury of choice anymore.  I need to see my Savior on the cross these days as I stumble and fall under the weight of my own.  I need to see the extravagant love of God made visible, offered up for me and for all those hungry for Bread.  I am reminded of the horror that allowed the Resurrection to be possible.  The one that allows you and me to hope in the midst of our own great pain.

Empty crosses are fine, but they simply can't move me the way the limp, beaten body of my Savior does.  They don't fill me with worship and gratitude and humility and love.  In our society, they are incredibly easy to overlook- sometimes bedazzled onto jeans, sometimes encrusted in diamonds around our necks.  It's pretty hard to conjure up any real response to seeing an empty cross.  (An empty tomb, yes.)  But nail Jesus to it and things either get breathtakingly beautiful or they get awkward.  Really fast.  Which, incidentally, seems to be exactly the same reactions that walking-on-earth Jesus elicited, too.

We don't like to suffer, you and I.  We spend most of our lives trying to avoid it, actually.  But what if we believed what Jesus' silent corpse tells us from the cross?  What if we believed that suffering is necessary for our good?  What if we trusted the Father enough to drink the cup He's prepared for us?

I have a dream for the universal church and it looks something like this: instead of seeking to feel good (whether that means wealth and prosperity or miracles and healing), we would seek to emulate Jesus' life of being with the poor and outcast, walking towards suffering (both theirs and our own) willingly, believing it will transform us when we meet God there.  Not that some of us won't be wealthy- some will- and not that miracles and healing won't happen- they will.  But what if Christians spent more time being changed by what is hard and less time chasing after what is glittery?

I believe it's possible.  
I believe it will be the most lovely thing the world has ever seen.  
I believe it starts with the crucifix.

Someday, the light will shine like a sun through my skin & they will say, 'what have you done with your life?' & though there are many moments I think I'll remember, in the end, I will be proud to say, I was one of us.

(Brian Andreas, Storypeople)