Twice I saw the man with the cross. Once on the southern part of town, the busy places, the reckless and impatient drivers, the scurrying about grocery shoppers in the days before Easter Sunday.
Then again downtown, on the northern side, blocks from the pretty shops, the sidewalk strollers, he was at an intersection.
The first time, he walked with the wooden cross, a display of his allegiance. He carried the beams joined together and he’d decorated the center with Easter colored florals. I seem to remember he himself was dressed in a jacket and was intentionally put together in a way that seemed to be his best.
At an intersection, two days later, he stood next to a bicycle. The bike, the big cross and this man.
I’d never seen him before.
I waited at the light and glanced to my left. Waiting as well to cross was a man in shorts, unshaven and gazing down at his work-boot clad feet, a faded backpack slipping down from his shoulder.
I didn’t recognize him either. In my years of homeless work I’d seen many like these two, just not them. I thought of their condition, I assumed mental illness and addiction.
I woke with regret over that supposed reason for their condition, their behavior and decision.
I drove downtown and across town yesterday hoping to see one or both.
The Book of Mark’s introduction in the back of my Bible tells me that the writer is possibly anonymous, theological experts say he wrote his gospel based on Peter’s teaching. I love the tone in Mark’s words. I’m certain I would have been fixed on the words of Peter preaching too.
I read Mark’s description of John the Baptist and I immediately thought of the man on the bike with the flower adorned cross.
“Now John was clothed with camel’s hair and wore a leather belt around his waist and ate locusts and wild honey. And he preached, saying, “After me comes he who is mightier than I, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie.”Mark 1:6-7 ESV
John the Baptist, the son of Elizabeth, the unborn child who was moved by the presence of Jesus while in his mother’s womb.
It was his purpose to go first and then point to the one others like me should follow.
Maybe the man with the cross and the man crossing the intersection began a conversation as I drove home.
Maybe the assumed “crazy” countenance of the one honoring Jesus that day led to questions and then to answers.
Maybe the one I assumed would speak of Jesus was all wrong, maybe the man without the cross was the giver.
Maybe the man worn and weary, walking alone from somewhere had a story to tell.
Maybe the two shared their affection for Jesus.
Andrew Peterson has a voice of comfort, a call to consider love and understanding in most of his songs. Honestly, he beckons us to understand ourselves and then better understand others.
This song, this morning beckons me to consider the ways I don’t understand Jesus’ love for me and then to decide it’s not for me to understand completely, only to accept and believe it.
“And even in the days when I was young
There seemed to be a song beyond the silence
The feeling in my bones was much too strong
To just deny it. I can’t deny this. I’ve been seized by the power of a great affection
Seized by the power of a great affection.” Andrew Peterson
I took time to listen this morning, the song Pandora plays for me often. I remembered telling my first real boss that I chose to work in careers that helped others because of a little girl decision. I remembered being certain that I understood the burdens of other children and as a little girl, I knew I’d be called to help them.
I had no idea back then, that was Jesus calling me tenderly towards today, the notice of other tender hearts, the prayers for people as I see them on the street or downcast in the grocery aisle. The sharing of a book filled with birds for children that closes with the assurance of Jesus.
Not just for children.
I hadn’t thought of that shy little girl that I was for a very long time until I listened.
Listen here: The Power of a Great Affection
Days ago, a conversation sparked a reply from someone. I can’t even recall the reason, only the confident answer.
“That’s not my J-man.”
Some might find that irreverent, casual, or cocky.
Like the man walking the streets of my town bent by his cross, me comforted by a song that brings peace, Jesus is a personal Savior.
We call to him and he answers, answers to even “J-man” I believe.
He loves us just that way.
Secretly, He knows us intensely and individually.
Loves us with a great affection.
It has no end.
I pray you know this great affection, that His story becomes yours too.
Continue and believe.