“What a beautiful cross.”
As the lone passenger in the back seat of a St. Louis taxi, I started a conversation with the driver. Because, well, otherwise, this was bound to be a long 25 minute ride.
It turned into a conversation I’ll never forget.
“Do you go to church?” he asked.
“Yes, usually every Sunday, with my family.”
“That’s very good. That’s the most important thing. God and your family.”
My driver was from Ethiopia. For the life of me I can’t remember his name, or maybe I never totally caught it while listening closely to his broken English. But his story was remarkable.
This faithful man’s face lit up when talking about his wife, son, and daughter. However, his siblings still lived in Ethiopia. He’s fearful to return home to visit them. But courageously visit, he will.
He’s seen the burned churches. He’s afraid for his life when he goes to visit his family back home.
Such a strange, irrational hate and senselessness exists in those who persecute Christians in that part of the African continent, and the violence only continues to spread. Who can explain why Muslims who burned a Christian church would take a statue of Mary as their own because it was blessed?
Rather than scare him away from faith, it only seemed to empower him. He expressed no hate for the people responsible for the brutal atrocities, only disbelief that humans could behave so horribly.
He spoke of the cross tattoos engraved inside the wrists of Christians so that upon death, they can be identified for a proper service and burial.
I wish I could remember everything we talked about. I wish I had written it down immediately.
Of course, I’ve read about persecution of Christians abroad, but I’d never talked to someone who had experienced it firsthand. It begs the question, “How would I react in the face of hate and violence directed toward my family and community because of my faith in Christ?”
I’m embarrassed to admit that sometimes getting my family of six out the door for church sometimes stresses me out a little. It’s so HARD for them to put on their nice shoes unless I’m standing over them. There’s faux-hawk hairdo’s and slow motion tooth-brushing interrupted by water fights and fits of giggles when they’re still in their pajamas and not yet in their khakis that can just drive me crazy. In the grand scheme of things, it’s really NOT that hard. It’s what we are called to do. Worship. Pray. Believe. Love Him and love others.
It’s a crazy world we live in, and if we’re insulated from it now, we can expect the craziness to arrive sooner or later. In one way or another.
And then we look to the cross. The cross that stands firm no matter who or what comes next. The cross that reminds us of He who first loved us, tells us to love one another, and look after our families. The cross that tells us that He will be with us always until the end of the age. And that’s all that really matters.
The beautiful cross.