Do you have any idea what you are worth?
I have the honor of being a part of a wonderful faith journey with my friend Chris. The things she discovers as she wrestles with God are beautiful and immediately shared with those of us who need them. Enjoy this guest post today, as she shares her discovery of the meaning of the cross.
I was starting to panic as I sat in church on April 28th. I was running out of time. I had been leading a small group of five girls through our church’s confirmation program this year and we had two more weeks until the big day but no more meetings scheduled. In two weeks they would walk out of the church in their fancy clothes and I couldn’t be sure when, if ever, they would be back…
How can I let each of these girls know how special she is? How can I convince each one that she is now and always will be loved by you, be important to you? All day, every day they are inundated with messages, thoughts, doubts about their purpose, their sexuality, their future, what they stand for, what they believe in. When I listen to them talk sometimes, I am just exhausted. How can I convince them that their lives matter, that each of them is worthy? The words are simply not enough, I am not reaching them with words. How do I show them?
And it was at that moment that I looked up and into the eyes of Jesus on the cross. I looked right into His eyes and felt all of the air rush out of my lungs. How had I looked at the answer all these years and never seen it?
Growing up I had always hated the crucifix. In Sunday school when the teacher would read the story of the crucifixion, I would start crying when they put the crown of thorns on Jesus’ head and by the time we got to the nails, I was sobbing so loudly I couldn’t hear a thing. As a child, I had always found the story of the crucifixion to be horrible, like stories of the Holocaust. I knew if I were hanging on a cross I would be sad and scared and that was all I felt looking at a crucifix. Later, as a young adult, I had found the stories of the crucifixion to be convoluted and contrived. Science teaches that the simplest solution is the right one and the story of Jesus seemed ridiculously complicated.
But in that moment, all of the pieces finally fit together and when I looked at Jesus on the cross, it was breathtakingly clear. He didn’t look sad and scared and small, he looked powerful and infinite. And I felt my heart swell… that’s how worthy those girls are… that’s how worthy I am. And that is why it had to be the cross—because the words were not enough. We needed to be shown.
There are no words to adequately express to another person how much her life matters. And certainly, none to express how much it matters to God. But the image of the crucifix is visceral—I felt it in my gut. I know how much my life is worth now when I look at the crucifix. It’s not a number and it’s not a word. That image is the only way that it can be conveyed so that I can know not in my head but in my soul that I am worthy. The story of the crucifixion is complicated and it is messy but for the first time, I understood it to be absolutely necessary and surprisingly logical to convey His message.
That evening I looked online for just the right gift for each of my girls and then I wrote this letter:
If you ever doubt how important your voice is or what you are worth, it is my sincerest hope that you will look to the crucifix to find the answers. It was not until this year going through the confirmation class with you that I finally realized why Jesus chose to die on the cross and why the Catholic Church insists on displaying the crucifix where other churches hang a cross. The crucifix is to remind you always what your life is worth. You are worth dying for. As so many of our conversations this year demonstrated, the rest of the world is constantly trying to distract you from this truth. So many facets of our culture are designed to tell us we are less than worthy and to sow doubt and fear. And as a Catholic it is your job to see yourself as worthy always and to demand that others treat you that way.
You are each so beautiful and special—created perfectly in the image of God. I hope you will keep this crucifix with you so that when things in this world are difficult, you will remember both who you are and whose you are. And when you look into Christ’s eyes on the crucifix, you will know in your heart what you are worth to God. Let that be your guiding light and let the rest fall into place.
And, as is always the case when I volunteer with the church—I have taken more from this experience than I gave to it. At 45 years of age, I purchased my first crucifix and I will try to make it my guiding light and just let the rest of the pieces fall into place.