There was a time when I stood on the bridge of agnosticism…ready to venture over to atheism. The cross – central to all my questions. It has been used as a tool of fear to shame and guilt people into subordination…into being ‘good’ (or else face the fires of an eternal hell), it’s been carried into battle as a divine shield and mandate for war, it’s been used to condemn people to death for being ‘other’ (i.e. the Holocaust), yet at the same time…it’s the symbol and namesake of one of the best known humanitarian organizations – the Red Cross, it’s on the walls of hospitals and orphanages around the world, it’s used in the movies as a symbol of ultimate good with the power to ward off vampires and evil spirits, it consecrates our burial grounds, casually – nickel, silver, gold and platinum plated – it adorns our necks and ears as jewelry, it’s screen printed and embroidered on t-shirts and the back pockets of jeans and continues to be a popular tattoo choice. It means a lot of things to a lot of people.
Yesterday, on my way to work, I started noticing crosses outside of these familiar contexts…they seemed to be everywhere…from the seat belt securing me to the telephone poles lining the streets…from the plane that flew overhead to the intersections I passed through.
While I was on my break at work (I work in a warehouse), I was laying on my back and first noticed the sky light (pictured top left). I continued looking around and there they were…one after another. So I grabbed my phone and started taking pictures. Skylights, Screens, Pallets, Boxes, Windows, Ladders, Racks, Crates, Carts, etc, etc. All there in plain sight…
Then I got to thinking…the Crusaders…The Soviets and Nazis…authoritarian priests and nuns…”fire and brimstone” preachers….the Westboro Baptists and their fundamentalist twins – the New Atheists…they all get it so tragically wrong.
So the story goes: God became man (Heaven comes to earth – vertical), lived with us in truth and grace… and in doing so, confronted and exposed our selfishness and the hate spawned by our self-protective fear which would have us blame-shift to the point of murderous violence (even killing God Himself) and with a Love that would lay it’s life down for others, He would undo it all…releasing the power of death’s grip on us – and this victory won by love, forgiveness and mercy – extends to all of humanity (horizontal.) The Cross – a symbol of both the intersection of the Creator and the Created – His Love that came down and our fear that raised him up…and the Creator as the Created – Jesus both fully God and fully man. His Light come down like a laser, beamed out across time’s horizon – past, present and future. This a symbol of redemption…NOT oppression. Of Love, NOT hate. Freedom, NOT shame. Strength, NOT weakness.
Like the pallets and racks of my workplace, there are also the ribbons and twine securing the presents we give and receive on holidays, the frames of our homes, boats, automobiles, bikes, the furniture we recline on and the bridges we drive over…the deadbolts that lock our doors, the fences that guard our yards, the bed slats under our mattresses and rail road ties that secure our tracks…nets, TV mounts, bookshelves, band-aids and stitches, etc, etc, etc.
There are crosses everywhere holding things together. And that’s what Jesus’ cross is – the real (historical) display of Love’s true strength – a life willingly laid down so that others might live – this the divine brace that binds our brokenness – the structural support for our weaknesses – which without, we would come undone.
Look and you will see…
“You have to believe it and you hate it. I don’t have to and I think it’s beautiful” Katherine Paterson – Bridge to Terabithia
Alan Jackson’s OFFICIAL SITE