Clinging to the Cross
It was 15 weeks ago that I went to the hospital to have our third child, finally a little girl! After my two boys, I was extremely excited to welcome her into our family. Like my other two deliveries, this was a routine and scheduled induction. I told my doctor, “I want this delivery to go just as the other two did – easy and uneventful.” I wanted it scheduled so I could make sure to be in control of all the factors. She assured me this was the way to ensure a similar delivery experience. Everyone I spoke to also assured me that by the time your third child comes along, the labor and delivery experience is a cake walk. “You’re so good at having these babies,” my doctor playfully bragged on me in front of the hospital staff, as we checked in. “We will be out of here in no time.” There my husband and I sat like pros, optimistic and excited to meet our baby girl. I hadn’t even packed my overnight face cream. We would be back home soon, probably in under 24 hours. We waited a couple of hours for my contractions to intensify when the doctor came in to check. As she sat down at the end of the hospital bed, I watched as her face dropped suddenly. She quickly and urgently described to my nurse that there was a problem, and in a much too elevated tone announced that we would be having an emergency C-section NOW. There was a heartrate dropping rapidly, and they weren’t sure if it was the baby’s or mine. Either way, it was time to get the baby out. The nurse reached for the phone to call the surgical team to come in when my doctor said again, and louder this time, “NO. NOW!” My nurse, my husband, and my sister all jumped in line and followed orders. I lay helplessly as I watched them not walk but RUN alongside my hospital bed. They wheeled me out the door and down the hall to the operating room. Realizing that I wasn’t prepped for surgery, the doctor had to put me under anesthesia and intubate me to keep me breathing. In seconds, all went black.
Hours later, fluorescent hospital lights broke into my darkness. I woke up not knowing whether the much-anticipated baby girl, who had now been cut out of my body against my will, was alive or dead. The first words out of my husband’s mouth, as I tried to come to my senses were, “She is okay. The baby is okay.”
The physical trauma that the following hours, days, and weeks brought was more than I had ever known and more than I believed I could bear. For hours upon hours, I sat alone in my rocking chair with my baby girl. I sat there partly because I didn’t want to get up and do anything else, and partly because I did not have the strength to lift myself and my child up out of the chair without assistance. And so there I sat and rocked and sang.
My older two boys have heard me sing lots of songs to them; “Jesus Loves Me” and “Constantly Watching Over Me” are their favorites. But they also have heard me sing a great variety of “All in All,” “I Love You Lord,” “Seek Ye First,” and “Hosanna.” I want these acapella songs to be a part of their stories as they were mine growing up. But my baby girl has only known one song during her very short life so far. She knows “The Old Rugged Cross.” It took me a while to memorize the lyrics to every verse, so for many weeks I just repeated the first verse and chorus over and over and over again. For hours at a time as we would sit and rock into the wee hours of the night and early morning, these words were our only companion:
On a hill far away stood an old rugged Cross, The emblem of suffering and shame And I love that old cross where the dearest and best For a world of lost sinners was slain.
So, I’ll cherish the old rugged Cross Till my trophies at last I lay down I will cling to the old rugged Cross And exchange it someday for a crown.
In these words, I have found a refuge in this traumatic experience. I have often asked,“Where was God?” And it has occurred to me that God was on the cross. It strikes me that God was subjected to the hands of evil men. God was victimized by a violent social construct intended to harm. God was beaten, abused, and murdered. God’s dignity was stripped away. God’s honor was stomped upon. God’s worst nightmare came true. In the body of Jesus, God suffered immense pain and trauma.
So, when I don’t have the will or the strength to get up out of the chair, I will cling to the cross. I will cling to the cross because I am certain that my very life depends on it. I will cling to the cross because I am certain that without it I will perish or walk away or drown underneath the weight of my pain. I will cling to the cross because it is the only place to find reconciliation between this world’s suffering and shame and a God who claims to be good. I will cling to the cross because it is here that solidarity is found between God and humanity. I will cling to the cross because the cross insists – demands even – that God was present in my trauma. I will cling to the cross because it is the only solace for sufferers. And as I look for God in the midst of my traumatic suffering, I will find God naked, bleeding, and dying on the cross to which I cling.