This cross doesn’t look like much to everyone. It is not flashy, not something that stands out too much from anyone else’s cross they wear. It is something that I wear, and since last October, I have only taken it off to shower. This cross, however, as simple and strong as it is, has a great story…..
This cross was given to me at the end of a retreat weekend. It was blessed by Fr. Haut, who was presiding over the weekend as our spiritual director. This was the first retreat that I had ever been on, and it was an experience that I will never forget. It was a retreat for men, and it was something that really was unique in my life, and it is the only retreat that I have ever been on in my life.
That weekend was just the beginning of the journey of this cross. I consider this my conversion cross. I went on that retreat weekend not long after I received my first communion. It was a whole new world that was opening up to me. I had only been on the outer fringes of Catholicism before then. My grandmother, she was very devout to the faith. Growing up, I was not subjected to lots of religion, besides going to church, which consisted of mostly Southern Baptist churches, including the one where I was baptized. I had known about the Christian faith, I knew I was a Christian, but now, I was apart of the Catholic Church.
So, at the end of this weekend, the cross I took great pride in. It was an outward symbol of the experience that I had. That weekend made me realize that no matter what, I belonged in the Catholic Church. Little did it know the ride it was going to be on. It was going to be a roller coaster of everything. The next months, I did great at being at Church, being involved. I was in a good relationship, and things were starting to fall into place. That first year when I converted, it was good. It wasn’t the strongest that it could have been. The real truth in the matter was I still running. I had found refuge in something new, the whirlwind of converting and learning about the faith. What I really was neglecting is the fact that I still was not dealing with my depression. I personally was still afraid to ask for help, or even let it be known that I was struggling. My support group at the time would have been there for me, I know that, but I was too prideful to just ask.
As the months started to pass, I stopped wearing the cross itself. It still held a place in my heart, and held one of my greatest experiences, but I stopped going to Church, and instead of humbling myself, I turned towards the world for help. It was easier for me to find blame in everything and everyone else in the world, rather than admit that I was just running away from the depressive pain. That good relationship I had, it faded into nothing more than glorified room mate status. That support group, well, it was reduced to just my immediate family. My step-dad passed away, and I moved back in with my Mom. I would have wanted nothing less than to be there for her, and I would have done the same thing in a heartbeat, but even through all those trying times, instead of returning to Church and actually praying for help, nope, my stubborn self kept going at it alone. The cross was put into a box and its meaning was fading even faster.
There is nothing like a good long bout with depression to make you feel alone in a crowd. That is what I was, I was trying to be the support for my Mom (doing very poorly at that by the way), and still trying to find something. God has a funny sense of timing when it comes to things. Of course, this period in my life brought me to my wonderful wife. I didn’t know it at the time, but yeah, she has been a big part of my road to recovery. I don’t give her enough credit sometimes for putting up with my craziness, but she has been there. It was about the time that she and I started making plans to move in together that I found my cross and started wearing it again. I was far from being back at Church, and even farther from actually praying. At this point, I think I was farther away from the Church than ever. I still called myself Catholic, but in practice, I was more of an ancient Grecian. I was a walking contradiction when it came to my faith that that point. Yet, I was bearing this cross. If you talk to some branches of Protestantism, I should have burst into flames for it.
This cross seen me fall into deep despair. It was there every time I hit a new mental breakdown. I would wear it, then not wear it, then wear it. Through all of that, it remained the same. It was there when I wanted it, and not there when I didn’t. It was there when I seen my babies come into this world. It was there on my wedding day (still the best day in the world, May 20th), and it was there when we moved into our house. It has seen all sides of me, ones that I love the most, and the others that I could do without. It has seen people come and go into and out of my life. Through it all, it has remained the same.
In not so many words, this cross is a symbol. A symbol of all the things in my life that I have come to know at this point. My ever loving God has been there for me, the entire time, unchanged, and waiting on me to say the words, ask for help, and be ready to have an open relationship. It is my steadfast family, who, no matter what dumb things that I have done in my life, has been right there, whether I held them at a distance or not. It is my kids, who, no matter what, run to say hi to me when I come home, everyday, even if I have had to punish them for breaking a rule. Its just like the people I was there on retreat with, who, if I really called, or if they called me, I would be there for them. It is just like my wonderful wife, who, despite my faults, still holds me when I am hurting, and forgives me when I can’t even forgive myself. Yes, this cross is one that I wear proudly now, as I have begun to be a better person, Christian, Catholic, father, teacher, friend, writer, etc. It really is the story of me. To be continued………