Archives For the cross

silhouette of cross

I was completely blindsided after being called into a meeting at my church with another woman in leadership who had been upset with me for months. But sadly, I had no idea until she told me in our meeting that morning.

Months earlier, someone told her I didn’t agree with her leadership style. But that wasn’t what I’d said in a team meeting with several other leaders. Our women’s ministry director had asked my opinion about leadership training, and I shared my thoughts, but nothing I said was directed at her.

We both volunteered countless hours in ministry, pouring our hearts and lives into women in our church. All the while, we were on the same team, and I assumed we fully supported one another. But now the trust we had built for years was unraveling.

Driving home, my spirit felt crushed. It felt like I just didn’t have it in me to keep pouring out with the risk of being misrepresented and misunderstood again. I wasn’t strong enough or resilient enough. And I was exhausted from the hurt I felt and hurt I had caused.

By God’s grace, I chose to die to my fears and rise again in His courage by relying on Christ in me to navigate this very difficult relationship, leadership, and ministry situation.

That afternoon, I sat in my home office in tears. Laying my head down on my desk, I told God, I can’t do this anymore. I’m done.

After telling Him all the reasons why it was time for me to quit, a truth buried deep in my heart rose to the surface: “I have been crucified with Christ, and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:19b-20).

With my eyes closed, I pictured Jesus crucified. Arms stretched wide and willing. Willing to give His life no matter what it cost Him. Willing to be misunderstood, misrepresented, questioned, rejected, betrayed, and hurt beyond comprehension.

Tears streaming down my cheeks, I thought about Jesus on the cross. And I sensed Him asking me to die to my fears and let Him live His life and grace through me. My eyes still closed and dripping with emotion, I saw the scene of Golgotha with Jesus nailed in cruciform. But this time, there was a shadow of the cross behind Him, and I sensed the Holy Spirit telling me to lie down on the floor in the shadow of the cross.

I had never had this kind of encounter with God, but I sensed it was His way of showing me how to die to my fears. How to live crucified with Christ and find strength in His resurrection power, exchanging my brokenness for His humility and strength.

Lying in the shadow of the cross, I rested and waited for strength to get up again. Strength to stand at the crossroad and decide. Would I walk away from God’s calling on my life or allow Jesus to live His life through me? Would I protect myself from getting hurt again or live by faith in the One who died for me?

Being misunderstood and misrepresented makes it especially difficult to stay the course and pour ourselves out for Christ and others.

On our own we aren’t enough. Not strong enough, resilient enough, or humble enough. But Christ in us is more than enough.

Jesus didn’t die on the cross just to get us out of hell and into heaven. He died on the cross to get Himself out of heaven and into us! That is resurrection life — and the very place we get our enough. When we’ve been crucified with Christ, we no longer live, but Christ lives in us, and the life we live, we can choose to live by faith in the One who loved us and gave Himself for us.

By God’s grace, I chose to die to my fears and rise again in His courage by relying on Christ in me to navigate this very difficult relationship, leadership, and ministry situation. It was far from easy, but I can look back and say it was good because God was in it, and over time our friendship was restored.

Relationships are hard. Being misunderstood and misrepresented makes it especially difficult to stay the course and pour ourselves out for Christ and others. Jesus knew it would be because He faced the same temptation to walk away. Yet, He stayed the course and He stayed on the cross.

This Easter, let’s remember Jesus’ willingness to give up His life for us, knowing He would rise again and, therefore, we could, too. Let’s receive the resurrection power Christ offers as we open our hearts wide to Him and the life He wants to live through us. Let’s allow Him to be our enough, for indeed He is.

Renee Swope is the best-selling author of “A Confident Heart” and a contributing author of the (in)courage blog and “Craving Connection,” a new release from B&H Publishing. This article first appeared in HomeLife, a publication of LifeWay. Learn more at LifeWay.com/magazines.

Danielle and Jonathan Spangenberg portray Mary and Joseph at Living Faith Baptist Church’s living nativity scene Dec. 6.

Danielle and Jonathan Spangenberg portray Mary and Joseph at Living Faith
Baptist’s living nativity scene Dec. 6.

HEARTLAND | Meredith Flynn

“Start tending the sheep!” The warning is issued from a pint-sized shepherd on this chilly Saturday night in the parking lot of Living Faith Baptist Church.

The shepherds are a middle stop of the church’s drive-through nativity experience, and these kids in belted tunics have been waiting for the first car to arrive at their scene. Inside the cars, families listen to a CD of the Christmas story they received as they drove in; each track corresponds to a different scene. Outside, the shepherds act it out, tending their sheep like any other day, until a heavenly host appears above them.

“Christmas seems to be the most hectic time, the most stressful time of year,” says Pastor Adam Cruse. “And so, really, we want to bring it back to what is Christmas truly all about? The simple message of Christmas is about a savior who came into the world, and so we just wanted people to come back to the focus of it all.”

Living Faith planned to do the nativity last year, but were snowed out, making this year the “second annual attempt,” according to associate pastor Daniel Waters. A few minutes before this year’s performance is set to start at 5:30, cars begin lining up at the edge of the parking lot. Turning off their lights, they drive single-file past several scenes: Mary and Joseph hearing individually from angels; the couple with their new baby and the manger, shepherds tending their flocks; and wise men from the east visiting the family.

The last two scenes don’t feature any actors. In the corner of the parking lot stand three empty crosses, the middle one slightly larger with a white cloth wrapped around it. Next to the crosses, a small trailer has been fashioned into an empty tomb.

“We didn’t want to just focus on the Christmas scene, because it’s very easy to forget what Christ did and why he came,” Cruse said. “He came to die on the cross and then to come out of the grave, so we wanted to depict those scenes as well.”