car crucifix crisis

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.

actually hanging in my actual car ;)

the actual cross – actually hanging in my actual car 😉

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.

About otter77

I am a father, husband, computer hacker, youth minister, foster parent, adoptive parent, friend, reader, lover of science, aspiring/hopeful writer and most of all a confused but dedicated and Loved child of Jesus Christ. View all posts by otter77

6 responses to “car crucifix crisis

  • lanky

    I always thought the veneration of the cross is something that should be avoided. If I was nailed to a tree and left to die there is no way I’d want to see another cross and if all I saw was everyone wearing one, I’d definitely not want to come back in case they nailed me to another one.

    • otter77

      Absolutely… the cross was the pinnacle of roman torture and execution. It was a terrible symbol to behold. You’ll note that I don’t wear a cross nor do I buy one to hang in my car (rather that they are bought for me). Some would argue (about this) that Jesus hanging on the cross represents breaking the bond that death(sin) has over us because of his resurrection. Sometimes I’d much rather hang a stone around my neck about the shape of the one that was rolled in front of his burial chamber.

  • Patch81

    I first want to start off with Chris, “I love you”. I loved this post, I wanted to let you know I to feel the same way about necklaces and fish on me or my car. I want people to see God in me for my actions rather than my attire. When I read your post about the young boy here is what came to my heart.

    Your a wonderful man, and obviously your an awesome father & husband. That boy that had the sign, maybe he just needed a father? or someone to talk to him as a father? Funny how sometimes we come to a homeless person/beggar and we feel the need to give money. As though money will fix everything. I see that as an opportunity to offer love, compassion and even guidance with the gospel. God is telling me that he has given you the love of being a father to so many because he knows that you will love his lost people as a father. We all need fathers in our lives and it hurts me to think of all the people that grow up without that fatherly love/advice (Me included). Use your gift of being a father to help those teens that follow you, to be with your own kids in your home, & maybe father the lost out in the world that feel all alone. That is just waiting for that man who will show a fathers love.

    But ya know what, my heart makes me wonder how it is funny that, your a father to many young men. You said your still meeting with some young kids maybe that young man just needed a fathers love/advice and a good youth group to be involved with? Now that doesn’t cost a thing but a willingness to share the gospel…. and that is free. Be a **father** to those who are fatherless and the next time you see that kid or another, Offer some advice, take a moment to talk with him or even pray with him. Guide him to a shelter or somewhere and offer somehow to let that child know “your” heavenly father by using your gift at being a father.

    Genesis 18:19 – “For I have chosen him, so that he will **direct** his children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD by doing what is right and just, so that the LORD will bring about for Abraham what he has promised him.”

    I LOVE YOU!!

    • lankyzorLanky

      I have felt the power of the Lord of Grammar working through me and He tells me to educate you on the use of “your” and “you’re”.

      The first time you used “your” you did it correctly. The next two times were incorrectly used.

    • otter77

      Thank you Matt – I read this when I got out of bed early Saturday morning and I found myself quite affected by it. I’ve been trying to think of what to do with this or say about it ever since. I love you too man! Thank you!

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