Clinging to the Cross
Andrea just loved bedtime rituals. This was evident because she was always trying to add more. She consistently ate the same bedtime snack, brushed her teeth standing on the same stool, and was tucked in snuggling the same stuffed animal. Every night was identical, right down to saying the exact same words when she prayed. And I didn’t mind. At five years old, I was happy that her enthusiasm was strong, if not the words of her prayer.
Every night it was the same. “Dear Jesus, thank you for Mommy and Daddy and Baby Adam and BG (the dog) and for all of the food, the houses, and the beds. Amen.” Trying to broaden her prayer-scope, I would nightly attempt to remind her of all that we are thankful for by dropping phrases in my prayer that she too could use. This attempt was invariably unsuccessful. Andrea was steadfast in her desire not to change her prayer one little iota. That was until one particular night.
I was a little late getting into her room at bedtime. As I rushed in, I found Andrea rummaging through her toy box. I quickly called her over to climb under the covers for our prayers. I did my usual “name-dropping prayer” of other family and friends to be thankful for, and then patiently waited for her 5-year-old translation. However, this time what I heard coming from my little girl’s lips stopped me in my tracks.
She began her prayer as usual, chattering away about “houses” and “beds,” but it was the way she completed her prayer that nearly took my breath away. For the first time ever, in her squeaky little voice, she ended her prayer by saying, “…and thank You Jesus, so much, for dying on the Cross for my sins. Amen.” Wow. The fact that she knew about the Cross didn’t surprise me. That she, of her own initiative, added it to her bedtime prayer… did.
Trying not to sound at all shocked by her little addition, I gently tucked the covers under her chin and said, “That was a wonderful prayer, sweetie. What made you decide to change it?” Slowly, she pulled out one little hand from under the blankets and held up a small wooden Cross. With a sleepy smile, she looked up at me and said, “That’s easy, Mommy. I was holding onto the Cross, and it reminded me.”
My eyes misted as I leaned over and kissed her cheek. My little girl had just discovered a principle some of the most seasoned Christians never realize – what we cling to the tightest is what our heart will focus on. And in this reading our focus is the Cross.
From beginning to end, it’s all about the Cross. Now before we gloss over this familiar story too quickly, let this passage sink in. Jesus, the Messiah… Son of Almighty God… equal Partner in the Trinity… perfectly Holy and Righteous Son… held back His awesome power and submitted to the forces of Evil. And even though you know the narrative, read this verse again. Slowly.
Then they nailed Him to the cross. Mark 15:24a
Did you let that sink in? They nailed Him to the Cross. What Jesus did for us on that misshapen tree is something we should never take for granted. But oh, how easy it is to do.
Sitting at the bottom of my daughter’s toy box, the Cross was just another possession, a distraction from what was really important in her life. But clutched tightly in her hands, the Cross became her central focus. She could do nothing without first realizing the presence of what she was holding onto.
Clinging to the Cross is not something that comes naturally to us. It requires selflessness; it demands submission. How many times have we inched ourselves away from the immediacy of the Cross, being careful never to leave its shadow. Somehow we thought that if we remained just barely under its shadow, we were fine. No need for our life to actually acknowledge its presence.
As the old hymn goes, Calvary does indeed cover it all. However, the One sacrificed there doesn’t call us to the shadows. He is Light itself and the warmth of His Presence draws us to come. And as we run to Him with our arms outstretched, He will welcome us, love us, refresh us, cleanse us. Daily. At the foot of the Cross. Where we embrace it.
On that peaceful night as I turned off her light, I realized that Andrea was the one who reminded me of how to pray. As I am focused securely on the Cross of Jesus, everything else in my life becomes routine.
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