I became a believer, by asking Jesus into my heart, when I was 8 years old. It was not in a church, not with a bible in hand, and not in a crowd of people all raising their hands reciting a prayer in unison. It was by my bed in my pj’s (probably splashed with Rainbow Bright all over them). It was after reading a book series I can only describe as being the “Jesus Version” of The Babysitters Club. I was an 80’s kid what can I say?
When the main character (a girl- hurt, strong-willed, and rough around the edges), just like me, prayed the prayer of salvation, I too kneeled at the edge of my bed and prayed the words straight from that novel like my life depended on it. And it did. I know I was saved in that moment because of a peace that fell on me that I had never felt before. I felt the Lord’s grace and mercy and hope for my life at even that young age. I never stopped praying and believing after that moment.
I didn’t grow up in the church, but by Jr High I did go to a Christian School, and I wore a big silver James Avery cross proudly around my neck because I loved Jesus and because everyone else did too. I cherished a floral bible cover, my Point of Grace CD, and any moment Carmen was on TBN. By then it was the 90’s, what can I say?
But it was not until my late 20’s, after 9 years of marriage to my high school sweetheart, that my husband and I started going to church as a family regularly. And it was not until then, by being involved in a church, that we began to truly grow in our faith and truly walk it out. Needless to say, I often feel like I’m still a baby Christian at 35smish years young. We started slow, in just being consistent in going to church (because sleeping in y’all, it’s a lie), and gradually worked up to shaking hands and joining small groups. And then before we knew it, we found our current church home where our kids were baptized, where we take communion, soak in worship, and serve with a cheerful heart.
Now, just recently, one important aspect of my faith has seemed to continue to grow in significance in my life… the cross.
Not the cross on my neck.
Not the cross on the building.
Not the cross in the pictures.
Not the cross on the wall.
Why do I go to church? Why do I believe in church? Why do I wear the cross? Why do I worship and read God’s word? Why am I drawn to that cross ? What is it about that cross? I began to seek answers.
Over a year and a half ago, I attended a retreat with our church called “The Cross Experience.” I’m pretty sure I believed it was going to be like church camp in ’99. You know… a bunch of girls your age, bonding, a few tears, lots of big hair, with a come to Jesus moment that would fuel a flame. I was going in hopes this would fan a really big flame, something to sustain me. Because I was tired. Tired of searching more than seeking and wandering more than wondering.
Why was I tired? Why are you tired? Adulting is hard. Parenting is no joke. Wifing is sometimes even harder, yall. Don’t pretend it’s playing house like being a ‘praying wife’ is all roses, cuddles, and well timed-wine. Surely, Stormie O’Martian left a chapter out of my “Prayers for My Husband book”? The one titled “when he leaves his pants on the kitchen floor”. Yup, not in there. Because there is a lot of dish towels and mood swings, sour grapes and missed dinners mixed in there with the roses and date nights too. Yes, it is all glorious in its own way. To be cherished. But here I was a tired, introverted, only child, now 30 something, sharing a space with 5 others–seemingly like it happened over night. And I totally forgot I dont really like to share! Some days I ached just wanting a warm bath and good Roald Dahl book, alone. And that was all I could muster in an emotion. But surely this church camp for the ‘church ladies’ could rescue me from the burdens, the demands, the hurts, and the oh so dreaded monotony of life? At least for 3 days?
And so we went. To the Cross Experience, so named as this was an intense teaching for 3 days as we focused on the death, buriel, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. But, it turns out, this was no church camp. Actually, in the first few minutes, it felt like Christian Kidnapping. No really. It’s a thing.
We were driven away in unmarked white vans to a lodge on the water. Scenic view. No one around. Do you see how this could be a bad 90’s movie? We had no clue where we were and had no agenda in front of us. Wait! This is glorious, I thought! We, well I did, quickly sighed a sigh of relief realizing… Finally, we have no where to be and no where to go but here. Our cell phones and watches were taken away. Finally, a silence we were unfamiliar with was forced upon us. We had no choice, with no clock, to just be present in the moment. We were told to pack light and comfortable, which means we had the bare minimum. Finally, no piles of laundry to fold or image to upkeep. We were not allowed to cook or serve ourselves a meal, only to be served hand and foot by others. Finally, a break. We were surrounded by strangers in the same position. Finally, no pre-conceived notions, no barriers to geniune conversation. We bunked like campers with lights out at 11pm, but no one really slept. The Lord was moving.
We were unplugged from the world and immersed in the Word. When all the daily routine, drama of life, and responsibilities were stripped away for 3 days, we were given the opportunity to focus solely on the cross and what it meant to us. For me, in that moment, there were no screaming kids, no bills to pay, not even a meal to prepare. I couldn’t distract myself from the cross before me by staring at my phone or finding chores to do. It didn’t matter what my title was there, what my accolades were, who I knew, or what I had done. There, I wasn’t mom, employee, church member, or wife; there, I was a child of God, the daughter of a king. And He was there.
The 12 or so bible teachings on the garden, the sacrifice, the desciples, the cross, the tomb, the resurrection, and the Holy Spirit were presented by people. People like me. Not pastors, not saints, not counselors or John Maxwell leaders. Or maybe they were. But there, they were just a healed version of us, and only told of how they were sinners, they were broken, they were hurt, and how they needed Jesus. They told their stories. How they made it through. How the cross saved them. We heard things thatyou don’t always hear at a normal Sunday service, like how we can hold on to things from childhood that aren’t ours to carry, how we can serve the Lord in serving our families, how sin keeps us from God. We learned how to forgive, not only others but also ourselves, how to not look back, and how to resurrect what was lost or taken from us. We learned exactly what it meant when Christ went from that garden, that long painful pressing process, to the cross where He shed His blood for us.
It was there that I studied intently a rugged wooden cross standing in the corner of the room, crying hot tears because never before did I understand the significance, the power, and the weight of the cross. I just could not believe the price Jesus paid on the cross. For me. Me, who complains when my feet hit the floor each morning, as if life isn’t a gift? For me, that struggles to rejoice even on the good days? I heard the story about a cross where God gave His only son to die for me. Beaten, broken, and bruised on that cross. For my sins. He paid the ultimate price so I could live.
It was there that I nailed my sins, my pain, and my past to the cross. Physically, literally, spiritually, and in solidarity with 22 other women just like me. We were honest and humble in worship as the spirit moved, and I heard the Holy Spirit say, “let me take it from here”. I decided at that moment that life as I was trying to do it, just wasn’t working anymore. I knew I was saved, but I asked God to please come and take control of my life. All of it. The good, the bad, and the ugly. I asked him to bring light into the dark places, and committed to rejoicing no matter the situation or the storm.
In an instant, in a moment, anointed and ordained by God, He said “ok, I’ve got this. I’ve had this. You’ve been mine all along”. He said all this by showing me, giving me the revelation about the Jesus I loved and His cross. On That day, I saw the cross for what it was…
“For this is the way God loved the world: he gave his one and only Son that everyone who believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world should be saved through him. The one who believes in Him is not condemned. The one who does not believe has been condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the one and only Son of God.” John 3:16-18
“For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” – 1 Corinthians 1:18
“In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace.” -Ephesians 1:7
“So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” -John 8:36
“for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” -Romans 3:23-24
Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. -John 14:6
Everything I was looking for was right in front of me, on my neck, on my wall, in the Bible all along.
Why do I share all this now?
Truth be told, I used to be a different person before the cross became real in my life. I may have been a good person-kind, compassionate, and strong (oh so strong), even saved- but I was limited. My joy was limited. My finances were limited. My marriage was limited. It was limited because of self-imposed restrictions I put on myself. Because of pain in my past, I decided I should try to dictate and control everything around me so I would never have to feel pain again. So I controlled my life. I controlled my kids. I controlled my husband. Or so I tried. I controlled what I did, what I said, who I wanted to be, whom my friends were, and where I wanted to go. I decided who to trust, who to let in, and I decided when to put up walls. I controlled it all. Or so I thought.
But you know what? It was Demanding. Defeating. Disappointing. And Damning. Capital D. I was facing depression off and on, health issues, and while “controlling it all” I was extremely lonely and miserable. I had had enough. I share now, because I hear from other women that they have had enough too.
It was through Christian kidnapping, I mean, through the best, most honest teaching that brought the meaning of the cross 2000 years ago into my very present life. It was in that moment at that retreat where I nailed a rusty nail into a cross, that I went from a wounded, strong-willed 8 year old child kneeling each night by her bed, to a mighty woman of God ready to take up the Armor of God. In this year following the retreat, I remind myself daily that I nailed the past to the cross and I continually ask the Lord to lead me, use me, put me into battle like a warrior princess. Every day. I am a new creation.
“So then, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; what is old has passed away–look, what is new has come.” -2 Corinthians 5:17)
The big blessing that propelled my family into a new season of life is that my husband also went to the retreat a month later; and that same cross before me, became even more real and evident before him. So there is wisdom in praying for our husbands in that “Prayers for My husband” book after all.
I’m not perfect. I screw up. Daily. But because of the cross, because He sacrificed so much FOR ME on that cross, I want to live FOR HIM. I no longer want to be in control but to see the cross as a visual symbol of my direction. I no longer want to do it all or be it all. I no longer want to be led by emotion, led by my flesh, or led by the world. I want to be led by Him. I want to grow in my relationship with the Lord, to glorify Him as a wife to my husband, to be patient and nurturing as a mother, to live simply, to love abundantly, and to serve fully the great commission He put before me. This is the most free I’ve ever been.
Maybe you are reading this and wanting that freedom too? Are you tired? Anxious? Treading water ? Drowning already and then bam someone threw you another kid? I’ve been there. Longing to look beyond the past, beyond failures and beyond imperfections and looking for the truth? Without the cross, without Jesus, it would be burdensome and impossible.
But here is the good news, as much as I needed and loved my Cross Experience Retreat, the truth is you don’t need a ‘come to Jesus power church camp’ moment. You only need a come to Jesus moment. In your room. In your car. In your office. Nursing a baby. Flying a plane. Where ever you are. When it seems there is no point, no answer, no solution, or strength for what’s before you, I can assure you, you can look to the cross. It’s our symbol that we can receive salvation through what Jesus did for us. He is our rescuer, our power, and our strength. You are who He says you are and He directs your steps. All we need to do is choose to believe and repent. If you feel like you have moved far away from the cross today, I want to encourage you to see it’s still here, nothing can separate you from it, and you can bring yourself back. If we move on from that, if we lose our focus, if we put our trust in something else, then we will indeed struggle.
I want to encourage you to not forget about the cross today. Whether you’re happy, content, or feeling broken, do not move away from the cross, but rather draw closer to it. Make it your compass in the calm moments and yet also in the storm. Begin to pray and to live every moment through the lens of the cross. You do this by opening your bible, getting on your knees, and seeing that cross. See that story unfold. See what He did for you. See that no matter what circumstance you are in, no matter the struggle you face, no matter the season of your life (marriage/or not, having babies/or not, working/or not, serving/or not, striving/or not, content/or not), the cross can become more and more of your hope, your guide, your comfort, your grace, and your direction. If I can become a believer, by asking Jesus into my heart, when I was 8 years old by my bed in my rainbow bright pj’s, then you can too.
My prayer for us is that we will all find a church home to dig roots and grow our faith, with crazy church ladies and all, with those pastors and sisters that will lead us to the cross. My prayer is that the cross will continue to minister to us in every season . If we are in a good season and everything seems well, then let the cross humble us and remind us that we need Him. If we are in a tough season and all around us seems to be falling part, then let the cross hold us up and remind us that what Jesus did was enough, that the cross was enough, and it will always be enough. My prayer is that because He humbled Himself on the cross, may we be crucified in Christ.
“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”Galatians 2:20 NIV
The cross is our answer, our power, and it is the final word.
My song inspiration to finally write this all out: Wells – “Final Word” https://youtube.com/watch?v=IG5ZoqMQZAY
#wells #finalword #cross