Clinging to the Cross
I have enjoyed immensely getting to know other bloggers through the years, seeing the world and faith from their perspective. Years ago Jennifer Dukes Lee, an author who writes at her own site as well, was kind enough to write a guest post for me and I wanted to share it again now. This post is a beautiful reminder offering us opportunity to become arrested by divine love.
I peel back her covers, and slide in by Anna on her “Hello Kitty” pillow. She rests her head in the bend of my arm. I pull her in close as we welcome the night — this dark night, pulling a black quilt over top of the day.
This is what love feels like: two souls pressing in to one another, two soul-lights in the darkness brushing up against Heaven side-by-side to speak to the One who is Love (1 John 4:8).
“Time for bedtime prayers, sweetie, and then to sleep,” I whisper. “It’s late.”
She gropes in darkness for her cross, made from twigs and twine, that lay on the bedside table. She knows where the cross is, for this is what we do every night.
“Hold it with me, Mama,” she urges, and together we cling to the cross.
“You want to start?” I ask.
“Yes, Mama,” she pauses. “But …”
We hold twigs with fingers touching, in silence. And I wait.
Finally, she whispers: “I wouldn’t have done that.”
“Wouldn’t have done what?” I ask.
“Hang on a cross, and let them stick nails in my hands, and not even get a hug first,” she says.
And we lay quietly, looking at hands clinging to a cross, and remembering the Cross where grace flowed down from a God-man who died alone.
And I remember this:
From the sixth hour until the ninth hour darkness came over all the land. About the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?” — which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” — Matthew 27:45-46
In the theology of a five-year-old girl in striped jammies, “forsaken” meant this: Jesus died without a hug.
That’s tough stuff to ponder on the heels of Christmas. We’ve just finished celebrating joy and rebirth and peace and hope. And now this? Death?
But without the cross, the manger matters little. He was born to die.
That. Is. Love.
And on that cross, He suffered and died alone. This is the double death of Jesus — intense physical agony alongside spiritual separation from the Father.
He died alone, so that we don’t have to.
Jesus, who had no sin, became sin for us.
We have been crucified with Christ, yet we live.
And we cling to a cross, on which he died.
Until that night in Anna’s bed, I’d never thought of love as an act that could be done alone. We fall in love, pledge a life of love, make love, give painful birth to love, nurture love, let go of love, and grow in love. Every step of the way, love happens with at least one other soul.
But die for love? Alone? Greater love hath no man than this…
“I couldn’t have done it either, sweetie,” I said, with hands still entwined around that cross, that symbol of an executioner’s device. Only in the upside-down Kingdom of God could we see this instrument of death as a sign of love.
And I pull her in closer, acknowledging this need for love, and hugs, and the warmth of another human being.
In the silence, we rediscover love — sacrificial love without hugs — in the shape of a cross.
And together we close our eyes, and whisper sweet thanks together: “Thank you, Jesus.”
“Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” — John 15:13
How about you? You find yourself clinging to the cross today?