Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The Man on the Cross

My friend Diane Walker just posted a beautiful piece on her blog about the image of the cross, and its effect upon her worship & spiritual life as that part of her has changed over time. It's worth reading.

I read her words with understanding, and have experienced some of the same feelings that she described. Having grown up in a church without even a cross displayed in it, I now love gazing at the crucifix with Jesus upon it. I was baptized as a Presbyterian when I was 40 years old, but now am not sure if I am more at home there, or in the Catholic, Episcopal, Native American or Buddhist world view. Seriously.

I haven't been to church more than two times since Katie became ill. She entered the hospital in October of 2006, and passed away 10 months later. Yesterday marked exactly one and a half years since her passing. If you do the math, that's roughly 28 months of life without participating in church community.

I am very much "on the fence" about joining a church community again.

This is not because I have lost my faith. I have not lost my faith, but it has changed. I love God. That is the key to understanding me, my faith, and my world view. I love God, and I desire union with Him/Her, pretty much on a daily basis. I miss the Eucharist, and would love to partake of it frequently.

I tend to love the Catholic Church, but I don't agree with a few important things that would probably prevent them from admitting me as a member. I love God too much to leave Him/Her out entirely, so Buddhism is sometimes a stretch. My dear Presbyterian church has been through so much turmoil since Katie got sick (not related to that, of course) that, when I think of returning to it, I get a queasy feeling in my stomach. It feels to me like contemplating moving back home, after your parents go through a violent, nasty divorce & then a reconciliation; they may have a great counselor working with them, but the invitation to live with them again includes the potential for pain and suffering repeating itself. I can't quite face adding the potential for more pain and suffering to my life, at this point. Of course, it's just potential pain and suffering; it's not a certainty. But the possibility is enough right now to keep me from crossing the threshold.

Now, after experiencing what we did with Katie, from the beginning of her "mystery illness," through her treatment, surgery, despair, renewed hope, recovery, and finally, the necessary surrender of hope (and her dying), the image of Jesus on the cross is probably the most powerful image, for me, of God's present understanding of --and solidarity in love with-- us. With Jesus' mother, Mary, standing at the foot of the cross, it illustrates the fact that some awful stuff is just going to HAPPEN, and we are going to have to DEAL with it, but always with His help and love. That is why it is so powerful, to me, to see that Man on the Cross. Because not only is he a symbol for me, but also of me, and of all of us, here in this life. And by the grace of God, we have this symbol for a reality-check, a truth-teller, but also as an assurance that something is going on here that is more than it appears...something deeper is happening, when it seems that all is failing, all is pain and all is lost. That "something" appears to me to be Love, continuing to operate when all else is breaking down. Love brings with it meaning, sacredness, and gives us a reason for hope.

10 comments:

Grandma J said...

That is a beautiful post. I love the crucifix, it's real and it's the image of how Christ suffered for our sins. We will never understand God's plan in this world, but we have to understand that it is a perfect plan. I know this doesn't sit well with a parent who has lost a child to cancer, but when we were told my grandson had a very poor prognosis with his leukemia, I sought refuge in knowing that no matter what...God was in control. I also believe that His Mother suffered the same terrible loss as so many before and after her.
I include you and your family in my daily prayers....I specifically pray for His love and peace to be with you.
So, just love Him, and He will lead you to the faith community that is right for you.

AnnDeO said...

I was really comforted by your post. Our family was in the process of transitioning from a very strict religious upbringing and when my mother's death occurred it propelled on our pathfinding journey even sooner. So many have reprimanded us for "losing our faith" and I can't disagree more. This journey of grief has caused us to seek even deeper and find our own relationship, very personal, with God. I find myself, like you explained gliding and gravitating toward different belief systems, but it all is so deeply personal. (I too grew up in a religion where there was no image of the cross, but now that I have experienced so much heartache... it is in a weird way a calming presence) I am so sorry for your loss.

Contemplative Photographer said...

You know -- even though I posted about the empty cross, I photographed crucifixes all over Italy, and I have one hanging over my computer and another next to my bed. So I haven't lost my love for them at all -- any more than I've lost my love for God or my awareness of Jesus' loving presence.

Something to think about, I guess!

Busy Bee Suz said...

This is a very powerful and moving post Karen. You are so great to share with us all your trials in life...and this is no exception.
I also pray for you, Gregg and David...
I love the symbol of the cross myself too. It has many meanings to me as well.

Jennifer Stumpf said...

What a lovely way to phrase this issue. Many of us, including myself, do not partake in church services because of the feeling that knowing Christ and His love comes from within, and doesn't necessarily require a church to make it more so. I read widely in many religious texts, and find myself feeling quite at home within Christianity, Buddhism, and other faiths. Faith need not be exclusionary. Jesus' love knew no boundaries in His day. All were (are) welcome at HIs table. Many thanks for your words of wisdom on this topic, Karen. A wonderful book I recommend highly- Take This Bread, by Sara Miles. Simply beautiful.

KBL 2 ORD 2 SAN 2 LUV said...

This was beautiful, thank you Karen. Peace be with you....

Laurie Brandriet Keller said...

I just caught up on your posts I missed while we were away. "This Week Is Not Going Well" was so beautifully expressed and your honesty is a great gift to all. I'm glad you are not even trying to pretend it's something that it's not. Thinking of you, always. And lots of love coming your way from me.

Anonymous said...

I had a conversation once with a dear friend of a different religion than mine (they don't use the cross at all) and she just said, "If Jesus was stoned to death for your sins, would you wear a rock around your neck?" And without hesitation I said, "Yes!" Because the cross is just that - a SYMBOL of His LOVE. Beautiful post - have a wonderful day!
L in Alaska

HappyWifeHappyLife said...

Have you read "The Shack"? It's a beautiful, beautiful piece of fiction and deals with a man who has lost his daughter and is mired in (what he refers to as )"The Great Sadness"... and then he meets God (the whole trinity, embodied in 3 distinct people) at.... The Shack.

It's really an amazing book, and deals with the Holy Spirit in a beautiful wonderful way (and really helped me understand the Holy Spirit much more fully than I even have before).

Anyway, it's well worth checking out. Parts of it are "tough reading", but parts are incredibly poignant and profound. It definitely speaks to those who have issues with traditional organized religion, and traditional denominations.

Elizabeth said...

This is such a beautiful articulation of religious feeling and even conflict. Thank you for many words to think about. I am new to your blog, moved by your story and look forward to reading more of your writing. Thank you, too, for commenting on my own blog!