Recent comments by presidential hopeful Michele Bachmann have stirred up the discussion about gay marriage once again. While speaking to a group of high school…
This is a season when people are particularly bold and passionate about telling the world who they place their faith in. Physical expressions of this faith are everywhere. Take a look around. On billboards, bumper stickers, vacant lots, fences, public land, private land, businesses and in front yards you’ll see them — campaign signs! All have the names of a person or ballot initiative, many have arresting slogans too. You can argue the validity or truth behind the candidates and the messages, many do, but I contend that at the heart of all these is faith and hope. Faith in the people and process changes put forth to create positive changes in the world and hope for a better community and world. I find it a sad irony that in the days, weeks (and sometimes months) that follow elections these campaign signs often remain, becoming weathered and beaten-down reminders of the hope that quickly fades in the reality of a political system based on fatally flawed people who inevitably fail to live-up to the superhuman hopes we place in them.
If you look at stories recorded in the Bible about the things prophets did to get the attention of people around them, it’s hard to imagine that many of their contemporaries didn’t simply think they’d lost their grip on reality. They did some crazy stuff! A talking donkey, a talking serpent, cooking food over excrement, dead people coming back to life, the list goes on from cover to cover. But through experience, witness, and faith God has shown Himself to be true and His word to be faithful in my life. So I have faith. As I was reading through some of these this week I wondered to myself how I’d react if I encountered someone who did crazy things like a prophet of old, would I listen or discount them? So it’s no wonder that within the week, my question was tested in reality…. Last night.
It was around 8:00pm when I got an unexpected call from a friend. I’ve known this guy for years and love and respect him, but we travel different paths and don’t see each other all that often. Nonetheless, when he asked if he could have “two minutes of my time” I happily agreed. He was in my driveway moments later. With excitement in his voice and fire in his eyes he expressed his inspiration at having seen campaign signs everywhere… and went on. At this point, I saw wood posts in the back of his truck and I feared he was going to ask me to post a sign for his favorite candidate. I was dreading having to respectfully decline. At this point the conversation took an unexpected turn. He told of how, instead, he wished he could erect a huge campaign sign that simply said, “Jesus is Lord.” Again, I inwardly dreaded he wanted to do this in my front yard. But he went on with clear and focused passion to explain how he had heard from God that this wasn’t what He desired. (Sigh of relief.) Instead, if he wanted to express his passion for the Kingdom of God, he could do so with the sign that’s stood for Christianity for hundreds of years—by fashioning a simple cross. He explained that simplicity was, in fact, a critical part of it. Modeling what he meant, he proceeded to take a light wooden post from his truck, break it in half and bind the two pieces together with a single nail, driven in not by a hammer but a large flat rock! It was the simplest of crosses, handmade, right before my eyes in less than a minute. While assembling it, he explained the symbolism he had come to understand from each step—the breaking, the nailing, the rock. I was at once taken aback by the sheer surprise of such an unexpected visit and swept away by the zeal with which he presented his experience.
I anticipated the final step in process … posting the finished cross in my yard. But that’s not what happened. Instead, he explained that, like faith itself, in order to make this statement for the Kingdom of God, you had to do it for yourself. So instead of posting his finished work, he handed me a piece of wood, a nail and the rock and left the next steps to me. What happened next surprised me. As taken as I was with his story and the passion with which he told it, when faced with actually doing it myself I started thinking … what will neighbors think? This is crazy, do people even know what this means? It’s Halloween week, maybe people will think it’s just supposed to be a grave in my front lawn. (Really, I thought that.) But even in this the parallels to coming to faith were unmistakable. In that process almost everyone at some point considers what their family, friends, classmates or coworkers will think of their newfound “religion”. If you’re to move forward you have to reconcile this for yourself and accept the real consequences however they play out. Real faith has to be expressed in some form, not as an obligation, but as a natural outcome. Though I don’t think a person has to post a cross on their front lawn to be a real follower of Jesus, for me at that moment it was clear what I had to do. So I took the post, broke it, nailed the pieces together … with a rock and pounded it into my front lawn.
A very simple thing, made of and with simple things, but immeasurably symbolic. I don’t know how long I’ll leave it posted and I don’t know if anyone will even ask about it. When my friend left he said he’d done what he believed he was called to do and told me what happened next was up to me, I needed to listen for God’s voice myself. A very simple statement, an extremely challenging call. Then he left, headed to visit another of a list of friends he felt lead to see.
Some might call my friend crazy. Perhaps. But that charge puts him in pretty good company with folks like Abraham, Moses, Elijah, John the Baptist, just to name a few … and let’s not forget the crazy claims of a man named Jesus. The world needs more crazy people.