While on our honeymoon in Mexico in March, Jason and I decided that it would be fun to rent a car and to drive about 30 minutes north from our resort in Riviera Maya to Playa del Carmen. The quaint little city was bustling with tourists as we wandered from street to street, ducking in and out of shops along the way. We weren’t in the market for anything extravagant–just a trinket or two to memorialize a blissfully relaxing week on the beach, but when we happened upon a cozy little store filled with hand-painted carvings and artwork galore, I had to go inside. I was drawn by the color, the precision, the attention given to each piece in the shop. Figurines and embroidered cloth lined the walls, but what drew my attention most were the little baskets filled with wooden crosses in every corner of the room.
I picked one up and turned it over in my hand, feeling its rounded edges and the texture of paint strokes, like braille under my fingers. Each cross in the basket had a character of its own–some done modestly in monochrome and others, punching with color. I selected three of my favorites and carried them to the counter to pay. 45 X 3, the woman recorded on my handwritten receipt. 45 pesos. 4 American dollars each. She wrapped them up in a plastic bag, and later, we tucked them away in our suitcase for the trip home.
In June, as we were packing to move to Africa, I remembered something that had crossed my mind as we stood in the shop in Playa del Carmen months earlier, “We should hang this in our home, wherever we live, wherever we go.” I had wanted something tangible to carry with us from the beginning of our new life together, and the wooden cross seemed like the perfect item. I dug it out of the things we’d begun to put away, and told Jason I wanted to bring the cross to Africa. It traveled in my carry-on bag.
Tonight, as I was walking around our room at the seminary here in Johannesburg, I noticed the wooden cross sitting on the shelf. It’s been there day in and day out since we moved here three months ago, but tonight, it made a difference in my heart. The little, four dollar cross that traveled with us here from Mexico wouldn’t mean something to me if it weren’t a cross. And it wouldn’t be here if God hadn’t planted a little seed in my mind back in March to “hang it in our home, wherever we live, wherever we go.”
I needed that cross tonight. I needed it as a reminder that our God is a sovereign God, and that His presence in this place, or any place, is completely tangible. I needed it to interrupt my thoughts with the thought of something greater, something more important than any of my worries or frustrations or fears. And I needed it to remind me that the cross is where we begin and where we end–as Christ followers, as a couple, as little hearts beating all over this world.
I’m really grateful for the hands in Mexico that carved and painted and crafted our little cross. I’m immeasurably blessed by the ones that carried it for me.
This post was originally blogged on 18 September 2007 @ 9:12pm from Johannesburg, South Africa