by Joanie Butman
We had our first social at Bible study last week, where we share coffee and treats while getting acquainted away from our studies. A group of women never lack for conversation, so our leader reigned us into one discussion by posing this question, “Is there something in your purse that would reveal something about yourself?” It elicited a variety of interesting responses. I thought about the contents of my bag and wondered what I might share…the ever-present screwdriver because as a fixer you can never be too prepared? Encouraged by another member’s response, I revealed the sobriety chip given to me by a fellow ‘inmate’ when I left rehab a few years ago. I explained that I keep it close to remind me that with God, it isn’t who you were that matters; it’s who you are becoming.* It’s a reminder of what He’s done for me the moment I chose to surrender to His care as my Divine Fixer.
That said, I’d never consider wearing it around my neck. My cross necklace is more attractive while serving the same purpose. As I considered this, I recalled a long-ago conversation with my atheist father-in-law regarding that signature necklace. Sitting down to dinner, he stunned me with his directness, though I shouldn’t have been surprised as it wasn’t the first time. Let me preface this with the caveat that the cross I was wearing was not the size of something you’d see on P. Diddy. I thought it was pretty innocuous. In fact, I didn’t think about it at all for that matter. Anyway, the exchange began:
“Does wearing that cross make you think you’re better than me?”
The Colonel was known for dropping conversational bombs, but they never ceased to catch me off-guard. Since they were usually delivered during cocktails, his comments became known as cherry bombs. I believe they were launched to ignite conversation, and they never failed to deliver. Reeling with shell shock, I responded,
“No. Does it make you think that I think that I’m better than you?”
Surprised by his candor and uncharacteristic brevity, I replied, “Hmm. Interesting. I’ve always thought the exact opposite. I wear it as a constant reminder that I’m not. I see the cross of Christ as the great equalizer. Jesus died for everyone, and His grace is given freely to all. Our salvation doesn’t depend on what we do but on what He did. Christ doesn’t judge us in comparison to others and neither should we. However, with all that said, I would say that the cross I wear does define me much like your uniform did when you were in the service. There is a value system attached to that symbol. That doesn’t mean everyone who dons one lives up to it 100% of the time any more than a uniform guarantees a quality of conduct commensurate with what it represents.”
Luckily, at that point the waitress arrived to take our dinner order. Divine intervention for sure. The conversation ended there, but I should have added that I would hope my Christianity would be defined more by my actions than by my choice of jewelry. We may not all display them around our necks, but we all wear our beliefs on our sleeve to some extent because they should be obvious by how we choose to live our life. Despite the awkwardness of the exchange – or maybe because of it – that discussion stuck with me because it made me reflect more deeply on exactly what the cross means to me. Is it a decoration or declaration?
More importantly, every time I choose to wear that necklace now, it’s with a renewed appreciation for what it represents and with enormous gratitude that it isn’t my behavior on which my salvation rests but Christ’s. That cross doesn’t define who I am, but whose I am. The screwdriver I carry in my purse may come in handy from time to time, but it could never fix the brokenness that only Christ can mend.
* Liz Curtis Higgs (2004). “Bad Girls of the Bible: And What We Can Learn From Them”, p.165, WaterBrook