Saturday, October 17, 2015

X Marks the Spot

There is a popular image of a Cross shown stuck between 2 ledges, signifying a bridge for all people to be saved from death to life by "crossing" over a gap. I've never been fond of this image because the cross is always empty. I guess Christ on the Cross could be something of a hindrance to us, a type of stumbling block... and we can't have that, now can we? Its true that Christ died, was buried & rose again (thus leaving an empty Cross behind) but I believe the power of the Cross comes from Christ's presence on it, from the how & why & what He endured on it, not merely from the symbolism of the timbers He died upon. The Cross wasn't wedged into an crevice like a magical bridge. It was meant to be carried, not crossed. 

Many of us who "survived" the Christian culture of the late 20th /early 21st century have left the Cross behind. We believed we made it to the other side & our only goal was to heap up all sorts of spiritual gifts & blessings to spread to the world. Many of us were told to speak our desires & all would be done for us. That's what the Bible said afterall: "Ask & it will be given to you, seek & you will find, etc...". I don't remember hearing anything about suffering or sacrifice, but we used to memorize scripture & spout it at will at any & all of life's events... we thought we were shaking heaven, taking hold of the horns of the altar, sending thousands to flight & allowing God to "break us & make us" His beloved bride. We had our own lingo, our own understanding of things. Bible study, all night prayer meetings & professional worship musicians took to the stage to lead us into ecstasy... all these were designed to set us on fire for God so we could change the world! Looking back, quite honestly, it all seems like an emotional crock of bull.

Consider this: yes, the Bible was indeed "God breathed" (that is, written by men who were inspired by God), but we forget those men were essentially spiritual masters. They had been close to God & "living it" for decades before anything got written down. Rejoicing in suffering, loving one another, showing deference to the outcast, being self sacrificing & such for the cause of Christ- all these things had become second nature to them because they had been doing it for years. This stuff was ingrained in them. But somehow we expected to find ourselves able to achieve their way of life simply by reading, meditating & practicing it over a few days, weeks or months. No wonder many of us felt like failures. No wonder many of us struggled to find the life the changing substance our faith promised. No wonder it seemed like all some of us got out of the deal was a bunch of head knowledge. I'm not bitter, just a little more world wise & weary now.

Catholics, by the way, aren't exempt. When I became a Catholic, I thought for sure things would be different. They seemed to "get it". They spoke of suffering. They had Christ on the Cross in their churches... Devotions like the Rosary, the Stations of the Cross, liturgical seasons, they all point to Jesus' life, death & resurrection. But even as a Catholic, substance eludes me. I have a sneaking suspicion it might have something to do with the Cross... or lack thereof.

We are never to put the Cross behind us. It must be the focal point, not a happy memory or a background image on our screensaver. We must be aware of it at all times like a nagging pain. Its not our magical bridge to salvation, its our X marks the spot & we are to carry it with us wherever we go. Didn't Jesus say "Where your heart is, there your treasure will be also."? What have I been pursuing all this time? Spiritual gifts & blessings? What for? Without the Cross to stake the claim to the real treasure, I'm left spiritually destitute, grasping at air. I used to hear the saying: "Christ died on the Cross so you wouldn't have to". But when did Jesus ever imply that? I've come to the conclusion that its exactly what He wanted... and now comes the hard part... moving beyond the words. What does carrying the Cross mean for me?

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