So… it’s been QUITE a while since I’ve written anything here. Sorry about that (if you were actually checking back). It’s funny, my site stats show that people actually read here sometimes.
It would be easier to start my introductions over than it would to tell you everything that’s happened. So just a brief personal life synopsis of what I’m doing now – before I take you to the subject that I really wanted to write about today.
We have found home at a new church, it’s wonderful.. it’s everything we needed it to be and so much more. It’s not perfect, but it’s perfect for us. God’s providence is all over that situation. We’re suffering through difficulty over everything that happened after my last post with the church where I was saved. We are healing.
We’ve had a wonderful new foster son for about 9 months now, he turned 1 in February. We hope to keep him. Our family is up to 7 – my wife and I, our now 19-year-old “son”, his wonderful 18-year-old girlfriend who we are now calling our daughter, our 9-year-old son, 7-year-old son, and our foster son.
I’m still meeting with a small number of students who simply won’t leave me alone. I love them though, and they give me purpose and keep me reminded of my calling. I’m slowly allowing myself to serve in small ways at our new church. It’s hard.
There’s something more significant than all this though that inspired me to write today. It’s the little plastic cross hanging on a rope attached to the rear-view mirror in my car. I commute 40+ minutes each way to work every day and I look at it a lot.
Yes, that darn little cross. It’s a crisis for me because I hate it, but I can’t get rid of it. It drives me insane, but I need it to be there. I don’t want anything to do with it, but I can’t take it down. Why does such a little thing have so much power over me? There’s a back story here.
My 19-year-old “son” took his first ever trip on an airplane to see his distant family in California when he had only been living with us a short time. He bought this for me when he was there. He meant it as a necklace, but I don’t wear necklaces much and I hated the idea of wearing a cross around my neck – so instead I hung it in my car out of Love for him.
For a few weeks I really liked it. It was a significant statement about my early growing relationship with him that he would think of me in that way.
Then after a while it started to grate on me. I began to dislike it. I thought it felt too much like I was being a “showy” Christian instead of an authentic one. I felt like I didn’t want people to look at me like one of those Christians who puts fish on his car and crosses around his neck but his life isn’t really different. After a few more months, I felt like the obligatory statute of limitations on gifts given in love by your children had run out and I could safely take it down. I removed it from my rear-view and tucked it deeply into some dark crevice of non-use in my dirty disorganized car.
I felt fine about that for a while… perhaps a tinge of guilt every now and then, but for the most part I was liberated from the symbol’s burden. Then my son borrowed my car for something, which he does every so often because I have a small SUV and it can carry more things than his little Civic. He returned my car to me cleaned and filled with gas… and with that damn crucifix hanging again from my rear-view mirror… and not a single word was discussed between us about it… and there it has remained for many more months to this very day. I took the photo to the left just yesterday as I was thinking about writing this. I’ve never told him before writing this how I felt about it.
It still bothers me. It bothers me a lot. Every time I try to pin down why it really bothers me though, all I get are these empty excuses. I know they’re excuses, I know I’m missing the point of why it bothers me. I keep thinking things like:
* He put it there to remind me to drive nicer because he knows my driving history (hint: it’s bad). What really torques me is that it works. I feel AWFUL when I cut someone off or do something illegal and I imagine that people in other cars can see the cross and think that I claim to be a Christian.
* Maybe it bothers me too because I don’t want people to know that I claim to be a Christian – I want them to figure it out on their own based on my actions…. yeah right, who am I kidding?… I’m not that good. Maybe it reminds me that I’m not that good.
* Maybe it bothers me because when I’m in the drive-through I worry that I’m being judged by the kid in the window as “one of those Christians”… or by the people in the car next to me at the stop light when my non-christian music is too loud… or by the person riding with me in my car who doesn’t know me that well.
* Or many many more reasons I’ve prepared over many days and weeks.
Today this little plastic cross shook me to my core. I pulled up to a stop light… and there was this kid… he was just a kid…maybe 19? Maybe 16? He was standing in the cold, in the mud, holding a cardboard sign. He looked right at me… he totally saw the cross… and me… and my face… and I looked deep into his eyes. I didn’t have any money to give him… and I hurt for him… and I hurt for me that I couldn’t find the compassion to stop. I never give money to homeless people, I always justify it by thinking about all the charitable organizations in town that help homeless people and swear to contribute to one of them instead. Only I don’t. I don’t contribute to those organizations. And he stood there looking through me… and I know he saw my cross…. and he was just a kid… and I was – indeed – one of “those” Christians.
I’m not really sure any of that, or the 100 other excuses I’ve made for myself over the last couple years for hating my rear-view hanging crucifix – are valid at all… or partially valid.
What I do know is this: The cross is offensive to my pride.
It looks at me and it says – ‘You needed this. I sent my son to be tortured and DIE for you because that’s what you needed. You’re not good enough for this but you got it anyway. Remember that I love you.’
It’s so freaking offensive to my grown-man pride. It runs interference through my mind every time I get into my car. It destroys my narrow-minded conceptions of everything. The crucifix is the most frustrating thing in my car and often one of the more frustrating things of my daily life…. and yet…. I cannot remove it. I just – can’t.