It is a familiar scene. The hero or heroine is in a moment of turmoil. In those last fleeting moments before facing their great crisis, they pause for a moment of quiet solitude. They kneel at the altar, there at the front of a great cathedral or hastily thrown together chapel. There in that moment they pray, asking for deliverance or guidance or strength or whatever else their time of crisis calls for. Then, after they pray, before the camera has time to pan out, they open their eyes. They look up. And what do they see? What is the first image their prayers are met with?
A cross – a quiet response to their quiet or not so quiet prayers.
When we think about prayers in moments like these, we tend to focus on what they will do for our circumstances. That is, we tend to focus on how God will answer them by bringing the deliverance or guidance or protection that we so desperately want or need. But what does that moment do for us? What if the beginning of the answer is already being given? What if it is already being given in that first moment when they open their eyes? What if it is already being given in the cross?
There the hero or heroine is… there we are … in that decisive moment. We are in that moment when the time has come for us to open our eyes and commit to our course of action. And as we do this, we see the cross. We see in that moment a tangible reminder of what true greatness looks like. How it looks like love not hatred. Mercy not anger. Humility not pride. Forgiveness not revenge. Sacrifice not self-preservation. We see in that moment a tangible reminder of where redemption and reconciliation and renewal and rebirth are found. Not in the greatness of our muscles or minds or imaginations or manipulative skills to bring about the ideal we imagine. But it is there in the cross. It is there in the way of the cross.
This is a familiar scene in movies and on television screens. And it is a familiar scene in our life together. We ask for deliverance or guidance or strength. We ask for God to change our circumstances. And then, when we open our eyes, we see the beginning of his quiet answer to us. We see how God changes us in the midst of our circumstances and points us in the way through them. It is through the loving and humble and redemptive way of the cross.