In Chapter VIII of “The Wood Blossom” renamed “To Hell and Back,” Rebekah wrote about my bronze crucifix, how we had obtained it, why I wore the cross and how difficult it was at times to display it boldly. My life was significantly altered through the cross. I met some people who were attracted to me because I wore a crucifix. Some thought I might be a Catholic priest and approached me accordingly. There were some who did not like the crucifix and volunteered that information in ugly ways. But most people politely ignored the eccentric display of my faith.
I did not enjoy wearing the cross because I really preferred being an insignificant dot in a sea of humanity. Becoming a conspicuous fool for Christ was a difficult decision and was not my idea. Wearing the crucifix was strictly an act of obedience on my part in order to become "bullet proof." I saw and felt prejudice, both spoken and unspoken as bullets. "If I could learn to ignore these prejudices (become bullet proof), maybe I could become the person God intended me to be," I thought. I had been shaped into the person I was by the peer pressure of this world and my own carnal desires. Now I desired to be re-shaped by the divine pressure of The Word and the leading of the Holy Spirit.
A summary of my thoughts concerning the crucifix I wore.
The inception of this story began with the death of my father in October of 1982. He was 91. Though death was inevitable, it was still unexpected. I rushed to California the day after he died and found my mother in a state of shock. For four months I took care of a person who had become an invalid overnight. Her needs were so great and so continuous and I was so available, that I became my mother's "saviour”. But one day my own well ran dry and I slipped into a deep depression and feared for my sanity. Other arrangements had to be quickly made to allow me to return to my home in Colorado. The depression continued in Colorado. I did not want to see anyone, answer the phone or dabble with a favorite hobby. Walking through each day required super-human strength. Rebekah was at a loss as to what was to be done.
In March of 1983 a Bible teacher came to town and conducted a seminar. I reluctantly agreed to attend a few of the sessions. During one of these the teacher called me to the front of the room and prophesied over me. The prophecy is included in Chapter XIX. Although the prophecy may have been correct, I misinterpreted it for myself. I was convinced that this “new thing” that was to happen was to be at a different geographic location. The teacher .also addressed the depression that was so obviously written across my countenance and posture. She said, "Peter, the• reason you are in this depression is that you are wearing a crucifix. Jesus is risen. Jesus is victorious. He has conquered death. He is no longer hanging on the cross." I removed the cross and put it into my pocket. "No," she said. "You must get rid of it." I complied and handed my faithful companion to the man standing next to her. I walked back to my seat, still depressed, but also with a deep sense of loss.
It had been my custom to take my cross off at night and hang it on my headboard. I could easily reach for it during many a sleepless hour and hold onto it for strength and comfort. The first time I reached for it and found that it was gone, I was devastated. I went back to the seminar and asked for it back. I was told that it was thrown on the dump and that it was impossible to retrieve it. I went home and cried and cried and cried. A friend tried to comfort me by replacing the crucifix with a similar one, but the mixture of sadness and anger remained. It seemed as if the most sacred part of my soul had been violated. The pain in my heart remained even though the depression lifted a few months later.
I continued to ponder the incident and one day, several years later, received a partial answer. "Maybe the Bible teacher and her staff don't like the Catholic Church and express their prejudice by attacking anyone who displays the most prominent symbol of the Catholic faith, the crucifix," I thought. I approached the man who took my crucifix. He was honest and courageous and expressed his deep-seated resentment of everything that is connected with Catholicism. He also apologized for his behavior. The pain in my heart was somewhat soothed.
More years passed, but the wound in my heart would not heal. Rebekah's heart had been similarly wounded. We both agonize over Jesus' fragmented Church. I have always felt as if I was walking half-way between the Catholic Church and the Protestant church. I have always felt that neither was complete without the other, but did not know why. I could not completely immerse myself in either church and have kept walking on the fringes of each camp so to speak.
The unhealed incident of the crucifix provoked me to keep on searching for an answer. I am convinced that the most painful and unhealed incidents in our lives contain the biggest and most precious nuggets. I asked Jesus to reveal to me the secret and the treasure that He wanted me to discover. I had been digging for the treasure for almost ten years. I relived every aspect of this most painful experience and wrote down my thoughts. I relived the immense pain, the anger, the sadness and the temptation to shrink back – to withdraw from any possibility to be ever hurt or rejected again. I expressed my thoughts to Rebekah and a few other close friends. Each person gave me a little more insight. The loss of the crucifix did not easily yield its secret. I re-wrote these words many times before I was able to apprehend the answer and was allowed to share them.
My initial answers seemed accurate, but somehow inadequate and incomplete. There is a dichotomy, a gulf between those who see Jesus as the risen Lord and those who see Jesus as the suffering Saviour. There are those who experience Jesus predominantly through their intellect and through their faith. They see Jesus as the victorious risen Lord. They represent the Protestant or Evangelical world. Then there are those who know Jesus predominantly as the suffering Saviour. This group comprehends Jesus mostly through their heart and their faith. They represent the Catholic world. The two worlds have not been on speaking terms for many years. When Martin Luther came along, there was what might be called a schizophrenic break. They have fought each other and at best tolerated each other. Fighting or maligning those we do not agree with is not a godly posture. Neither world is wrong, but both are incomplete without the other.
One Sunday morning a very active dialogue or thought process took place within my soul. It was as if the very heart of Jesus was alive within me. It was as if His thoughts were suddenly my thoughts. They were so real and so powerful that I was convinced I could recall them at any time word for word. But the concise content and the passionate dynamo of the dialogue are gone. However, I will try to capture the essence of what the heart of Jesus conveyed to me.
"My people," He said, "My Body is still in agony. My Body is still nailed to the cross because you, my Church, are my Body. As long as you violate each other and violate my Father's commandments, I will experience your pain and be in pain. The only way you can take me off the cross is to become one healed Body. You must acknowledge each other, prefer each other, forgive each other and be willing to enter into the fellowship of each other's suffering. I will continue to be your Intercessor until you, my Body, my Church, my Bride are one healed body. I long for this to happen. Indeed, I am risen and I am victorious, but my fragmented Body, my Church, is still waiting to become united. Do not take lightly the price I was willing to pay for your redemption. Allow the cross to be a symbol and a reminder of my love and sacrifice for you. Allow my suffering to be branded on your heart. Be willing to follow in my footsteps."
I experienced a oneness with the heart of Jesus that was heretofore only an academic speculation. I had invited Jesus to come into my heart twenty-two years earlier; and I knew that He did. He became progressively real to me as the years went by. It took all those years for my heart and my head to become connected so that I could know in my heart what I had only known in my head. The crucifix was now in my chest and not merely on my chest. The need and even the desire to wear a crucifix was gone.
I shared these intimate thoughts with Rebekah. She said, "Yes, our hearts and our heads are disconnected. Our heart and head must shake hands, acknowledge, hug and dialogue with each other." And suddenly I understood the reason for the fragmented Body of Christ. As long as we are disconnected in ourselves, in our own nature and elevate the head over the heart or vice versa, we will affiliate ourselves with fragmented individuals and groups. When we are willing to acknowledge those who are different from us, we acknowledge the unknown, the undiscovered parts of our own nature. Only Jesus can reconnect the severed parts of our fragmented personality. We need Jesus and one another to become whole; then and only then can the Body of Christ become the Bride of Christ.
When I lost my cross, when the cross was tossed on the dump, the most sacred part of my being was vilified. I experienced a pain so severe that for an instant I could identify with Jesus on the cross. The temptation to lash out or to shrink back from any further pain has been constantly before me. I can now clearly see that nothing would have been accomplished through either action. I have found my nugget. I have found my treasure. I can now say with Jesus, “Father, forgive them, they know not what they are doing” and mean it.
I see the Body of Christ through new eyes. I have not adopted the Catholic Church as the Universal Church or the Protestant church as the Universal church; I have made room for both of them in my heart. Any church that is a loving, giving and forgiving church has room in my heart as long as it is not on some kind of an ego trip.