The Cross Around My Neck

IMG_2129In its little velvet box, the gold cross on a chain appeared small and fragile. But I saw a royal insignia, a medal to wear into the fray, the emblem of a conqueror. It took three months of minimal payments on layaway at the jewellery store before I owned it. Working part-time and on a limited budget, buying a gold necklace seemed extravagant, but I knew it as a necessity. You see, my life was a battlefield, with my marriage gasping out its last dying breaths and my family scattered and struggling. Yet in the midst of the smoke and ruin God showed up, like a bright flower blooming in devastation. I needed the cross necklace as a banner for going into battle.

Before this, God and I were old friends who had lost touch. I thought of Him with affection and respect, but not someone I talked to often. Then His Spirit began stirring up a hunger in my soul. Like a starving woman, I consumed the bread and wine of His Word, longing for more. His voice drew me into deep, prayerful conversations. I craved time with others who knew Him, whose encouragement fortified me for what was ahead. I knew that God was preparing me for combat.

So why wear a cross around my neck? Some saw it as an archaic icon of a gruesome form of public execution, even a talisman to ward off evil. To me it symbolized the One who died on such a cross with His arms spread wide in love and sacrifice. I had come to believe that Jesus Christ, the perfect Son of God, gave His life willingly on that cross, was buried then rose from the grave to conquer death and sin, offering forgiveness and eternal life to those who believe in Him. I wore an empty cross, not one with Jesus still nailed to it, because I knew He was alive, just as I knew the battle I was facing would be fought in His strength.

“Stay focused; do not lose sight of mercy and truth; engrave them on a pendant, and hang it around your neck; meditate on them so they are written on your heart.”
(Prov.3:3 The Voice)

When I stood before a courtroom judge to fight for an equitable end to a dead marriage, I wore the cross.
While toxic chemicals flowed into my body to fight a life-threatening disease, I wore the cross.
As I battled abandonment, poverty, loneliness and more, I wore the cross.

Every morning as I fastened the chain around my neck, I felt fortified. It was only a little piece of gold, but it gave me a focus, a touchstone to wear into the day, reminding me that I faced the challenges ahead in the strength of Jesus, who overcame death on the cross. He promised in His word, “My grace is enough to cover and sustain you. My power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Cor.12:9)

Jesus brought me through those long ago battles and for now the fields are green and peaceful. But I still wear the gold cross, although brutal in its origins, because it is the highest badge of honor displayed for the ultimate sacrifice given upon it by my Savior.

“It was God who brought us to life with Him, forgave all our sins, and eliminated the massive debt we incurred by the law that stood against us. He took it all away; He nailed it to the cross. But that’s not all. He disarmed those who once ruled over us — those who had overpowered us. Like captives of war, He put them on display to the world to show His victory over them by means of the cross.” (Col. 2:13-15)

 

©Valerie Ronald and scriptordeus 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Valerie Ronald and scriptordeus with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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Warrior

3474875-hands-of-the-elderly-woman-close-upI would literally sit at the feet of this frail woman housed in a body scored by pain. With my legs tucked beneath me, I listened to her soft voice as she taught me from a worn Bible open on her quilt-covered lap. As a busy mother of three young children, these times of spiritual learning and prayer were vital to me. Being a new believer in Jesus Christ, I was hungry to know more about Him and Margaret became my mentor.

Cared for by her husband, Margaret watched the world from a little cedar cottage perched on a steep hillside overlooking the ocean. During a routine surgery she suffered irreparable nerve damage to her back and as a result lived with chronic, disabling pain. She became a housebound invalid, yet I never heard her complain.

Margaret was a warrior. A most unlikely one from the world’s view, but a warrior in an unseen yet ever present battle. Like a commander at her headquarters, she kept in touch with the battle through letters, phone calls and visits from those she upheld in prayer. She armed herself with the sword of God’s word and developed spiritual muscles in the crucible of pain and isolation. When she prayed aloud, I felt heaven hold its breath to listen.

Cradling my newborn son for the first time, her faded blue eyes swam with tears which dripped onto his blanket like a benediction. She had prayed fervently for the health and safe delivery of this little boy, and now here he was in her arms. Without hesitation she closed her eyes and lifted her trembling voice in praise for this gift from God. Margaret’s prayers were more meaningful to me than any christening ceremony.

When she talked about Jesus, it was obvious He was her closest companion. With warm reverence Margaret wove His name and words into all her conversations. From the confines of her home she looked for ways to tell others about Him, and to offer prayer for their needs. By the chair where she spent so many hours she kept a prayer list, underlined, marked and often tear-stained. The one name most prayed for was her son, Bill, whose wayward lifestyle had landed him in prison. The enemy faced a fierce opponent in Bill’s warrior mother.

This week in North America many soldiers will be remembered and commemorated for their brave, selfless deeds, as they should be. But there is another army whose arms may be weak but whose prayers are mighty; whose legs cannot stand but who wield the mighty sword of God’s word.

They do not wage war as the world does but declare like the apostle Paul, “The weapons of the war we’re fighting are not of this world but are powered by God and effective at tearing down the strongholds erected against His truth. We are demolishing arguments and ideas, every high-and-mighty philosophy that pits itself against the knowledge of the one true God. We are taking prisoners of every thought, every emotion, and subduing them into obedience to the Anointed One.” – (2 Corinthians 10:4-5  The Voice)

I am grateful for the soldiers who fought for our country’s freedom, but my true hero is a frail little lady whose prayers transcended her physical disabilities; a warrior who discovered Christ’s grace sufficient for her, for His power is made perfect in weakness. (2 Corinthians 12:9)

The Forsaken Hour

compassI watch her walk away, this one I love; her back stiff as a wall against me. The very foundations of who I am and what I believe have been attacked and rejected by her. My heart cries out, losing sight of its true north. The needle of my faith jerks crazily, pulled awry by doubts, hurt, loss. The compass of my identity, firm in the grip of God, suddenly lacks direction and I feel as though I’ve lost my way. I am forsaken.

Forsaken, renounced, rejected, estranged. For a while the capacity for this close human relationship to wound and grieve brings me down to the dirt. Tears wet my pillow at night. I rise, unable to sleep, my heart dully thudding in my chest, my mind replaying words said and unsaid.

I try to understand how all the years of care, encouragement, sacrifice and love could be twisted off course so radically. Shared moments of joy, being there for each other, common memories binding us — now are shattered shards lying at my feet.

For days and weeks I worry over these shards of a broken relationship, wondering how they will ever be put back together. I pray, I search the Word, I cry out to God, yet the needle of my compass still spins wildly.

Doubt is a dark magnet pulling me from my true north, whispering, “Maybe you did treat her the way she says you did. Maybe your attitude was judgmental. Maybe you’ve been wrong all this time.” The father of lies squirms his way through the shards, spreading poison like blood on broken glass. I begin to realize this battle is not with me. It is a battle fought in a much greater dimension, a spiritual realm. If I believe what the enemy says and take this rejection personally, I will give him what he wants. I refuse to listen.

Instead I ask the One who knows. Show me the truth. If I need to make things right, reveal them to me. Help me see what You see.

And gradually the needle slows its spinning. Nothing has changed on the outside. The rift is the same and her heart is still cold toward me. But the air of my inner spirit is finally clearing and my feet are finding the right path again.

Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you,” Jesus, my true north, tells me. (Heb.13:5b NIV) I remember before when I was forsaken by someone else close to me, in the end it was Jesus who remained. He remains now, amidst the shards. Never will I leave you. Never will I forsake you. The never of Jesus lasts for all eternity.

Those who know your name trust in you, for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you.”  (Psalm 9:10) A compass is used by those who are seeking, to find their way. My compass was sent reeling by the blow of an earthly rejection, but true north, the absolute truth of the One who has never forsaken me, points me in the right direction again.

My heart will grieve over this broken relationship until there is healing, which I fervently pray for. But my spirit, that which finds its home in Christ, is secure and at peace, its needle pointing to the true north of His unfailing love.

“The Lord Himself goes before you and will be with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” – Deut. 31:8