When I was a kid my parents made us go to church and Sunday school. Looking back now, I remember that I really kind of enjoyed it. There was an atmosphere in church that felt sacred and peaceful. I liked the church organ music and the Bible stories about Jesus. It was always the best at Christmas and Easter when the stories gave those holidays special meaning for me.
When I was 13, I was confirmed in that Lutheran church we’d always gone to. My first communion happened on that same day. I can remember wearing the white gown and feeling good about the ceremonious occasion. My aunt gave me a silver crucifix pendant as a gift (she was Catholic). I cherished it and wore it on special occasions.
When I got older and as an adult I wore that crucifix all the time. Almost never took it off except to clean it. Jesus hung on that cross around my neck 24/7 and it was a comfort to me. A symbolic reminder of my faith, my love for Christ and His ultimate suffering and sacrifice for us. Plus, it was pretty frickin’ cool looking.
Almost every day for over 30 years I wore the cross with the silver Christ figure on it. Once in a while I would take it off and look at it. Reflect. Pray. Confirm my beliefs. I would thank God for giving His Son to die for us. I’m pretty sure I did just that every Good Friday and Easter Sunday for 30 years.
But five years ago something happened that’s hard to describe.
It was Good Friday. I took the crucifix off from my neck and looked at it for a few moments. I stared at the little silver Christ figure dying on the cross and I reflected on my faith. I might have prayed that prayer of acknowledgement. But I vividly remember looking at it and setting it down on the nightstand next to my bed. And then I left it there.
I wasn’t home for most of that weekend. I visited a friend out of town and had a date that turned into a night of barhopping, dancing, and a sleepover. I drank a terrific amount of scotch and had a great time. I woke up late and a little hungover. It wasn’t until early afternoon of Easter Sunday that I finally got back home.
Confusion was the first thing I felt when I picked up the pendant. It wasn’t mine.
This one was different. The cross itself was different. It was flatter. Lighter. There were scrolling designs done in black antiqued lines. I’d never seen this cross before, but how could that BE? My brain didn’t work for a second. Another long confused moment. There was no Jesus on the cross.
I remember being really upset when I realized what must have happened. It really was my cross but it had broken somehow. The little silver figure of Jesus had broken off. I’d never seen the design underneath it before so it looked completely different. My cross was BROKEN! I’d worn this thing since I was 13 and now it was messed up. I was really upset and disturbed that it was broken in the worst way possible. I looked frantically and desperately for the missing piece of silver.
I looked on the nightstand near where it had rested. I looked on the shelf below. I looked on the floor under the nightstand and then the entire floor of the bedroom. I searched the bed. The sheets. Under the pillows. I tore the bedroom apart. No luck. It made no sense at all. I wanted to fucking cry. Jesus was gone. He was just gone.
A couple of days later the realization finally hit me. Jesus was on that cross on Friday. On Sunday He was gone.
5 But the angel answered and said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. 6 He is not here; for He is risen, as He said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay.
Let’s say that the cross simply got broken somehow, even though it was memorably intact when I laid it down. And let’s say the silver Christ figure disappeared inexplicably and couldn’t be found for some reasonable explanation that we’ll never know. Even if those things are a given, the timing of it all between Good Friday and Easter Sunday…was nothing short of a blatant miracle to me. An extremely unlikely coincidence that got my attention. I mean it really got my attention. A smile came over my face. A calm and a knowing. What had made me upset turned out to be a divine spiritual experience.
God was giving me a wink. He does that sometimes with unlikely coincidences or events that simply make it obvious He’s around. He wants me to pay attention and sometimes I have no choice in the matter.
I don’t always wear the cross anymore. It doesn’t seem as necessary now because at about 3 months sober I had it tattooed on my upper arm. My first and thus far only tattoo. Apparently, this is how God prefers my cross to look…without His Son on it.