I once thought that I would never wear a cross on a chain around my neck. Maybe on Sundays in church, especially today, Trinity Sunday when we sing my favorite hymn, Holy, Holy, Holy….
I love being a Christian. I love the Church and I love God. My life since becoming a Christian (forty-five years ago) has been increasingly joyous and full of meaning (words cannot describe this). But what if people saw a cross around my neck and judged Christianity by my behavior? What if I wore the cross, and I said something uncharitable, or did something thoughtless, and my behavior turned them against Christianity, turned them against belief, faith in the astounding resurrection of Jesus Christ and all that that implies, demands, promises? For I knew I would make mistakes, being a daughter of Adam and Eve. Would I be a poor witness, give a false testimony to what it means to be a Christian?
But since my mother fell (see the last two posts), I have been increasingly humbled by the overwhelming tasks that continue to fill my days. I have been increasingly aware of my dependence upon God, that I cannot meet this challenge on my own.
I read that Pope Benedict asked Christians to wear their crosses, a timely suggestion. So I started wearing my cross, a simple plain one, around my neck, mostly to encourage me as I went through the day.
I wore my cross when visiting my mother in skilled nursing, checking on her bandaged legs, watching her try to walk again at the age of ninety-two.
I wore my cross when I searched for a suitable place for her to live with appropriate care.
I wore my cross sorting and packing her things in her old apartment and moving them in bulging shopping bags and boxes into the new studio, and when interviewing counselors and agents and nurses.
I often forgot it was there and considered later all that I had done and said (a good habit in itself). Had I been a poor witness, I wondered, with wrenching doubt as I examined my day. On the other hand, as I moved through the hours, I would suddenly recall the bit of shaped metal resting on my heart and touch it, and God reminded me He was with me, that His Son was with me, that the Holy Spirit was there to lead me. Wearing the cross allowed God to help. Feather light on my aging skin, the cross spoke for me: God, I want you near. And, amazingly, He was and is.
I said my daily prayers, morning and evening, an Our Father, Psalm 95 (The Venite), The Te Deum Laudamus, Psalm 100 (The Jubilate Deo), “The Collect for Grace,” taken from Morning Prayer in our Anglican Book of Common Prayer, knowing that in adoration my heart would open to God. He would guide me. He would strengthen me. And He gave me a little piece of metal, often called a sacramental, to remind me of this during the day.
But I was surprised at what else happened.
I found that most folks responded favorably to the cross I wore around my neck. I found more and more people smiling as though in recognition, more were eager to help. I found my own vision slowly changing too. I began to see each person with new eyes, loved by God. The twisted limbs in the wheelchairs, the groans from darkened rooms, the brittle bones, the vacant eyes. Each person was precious. The cross yoked me to Christ, and at the end of the day I thought what a hopeful day it had been, in spite of everything.
I had feared that my cross would alienate others, but instead it drew them closer. Is there a secret club of Christians afraid to witness publicly to their faith? Fellow Christians that delight in other Christians wearing their crosses, that want to encourage and support one another?
I think there may be.
I do not know if my mother will walk again. I hope that soon she will move to her new studio next door to her old friend Ginny (see previous post). What I do know, this Trinity Sunday, is that our triune God – God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit – all of Him, is with me – us – but only if we ask Him. His gift of free will demands that He be invited.
I came to know that the cross of Christ Jesus, the cross of suffering love, was my only way through these hours of challenge. Wearing His cross made, makes, all the difference.