Thursday, February 9, 2012

Healing the Dark Places

This January I spent ten days in studying in El Salvador. While there I had the great privilege of meeting the Lutheran bishop of the country, Bishop Medardo Gomez. He was present in El Salvador during the ten year armed conflict in the '80's and '90's. Like many Christian leaders advocating for peace during the civil war, he at times was forced into hiding for fear of being assassinated. Bishop Gomez is a fascinating and inspirational leader, and he shared a story with my group that will stay with me for the rest of my life.

One day Bishop Gomez laid white cardboard down on the altar in the shape of a cross during a worship service, asking the assembly to come up and write the sins of both the government and the people upon it. It was a powerfully healing moment for the congregation, and they hung up the cross so that they could remember that their struggles where Christ's struggles, too. Translated, they named it the Subversive Cross. A few days later, Bishop Gomez got wind that the army was coming to assassinate him and he went into hiding. Many people barricaded themselves around the church in order for him to get away. Bishop Gomez was able to escape, and the people who barricaded the church were arrested. In addition to those people, the army confiscated the Subversive Cross and hung it up inside the prison with those arrested.

That cross remained hanging in the walls of that prison long after the arrested were released. That cross hung in prison long after Bishop Gomez returned safely to his home. That cross, with the sins of the government and people written upon it, hung in prison for almost two decades until one day the current president, President Funes, released the cross back to Bishop Gomez. It now hangs inside the church where it was created, a vibrant testimony of how Christ follows into the darkest places and will not stop working for us.

I have been thinking about that cross a lot lately the past few days. I am a lupus patient, often feeling imprisoned by my condition. On Tuesday of this week I had a biopsy. Too make a long story short, the procedure had a few hitches. Not wanting to be imprisoned by my illness, I went back to school too early, got dizzy, and fell down a flight of cement stairs. Instead of just healing the wounds of the biopsy, I now have to heal the wounds of a swollen knee.

There are times in our faith when we need to let things rest, to be still and let Christ do the work. It is powerful that the Subversive Cross was arrested and imprisoned, but what is most powerful is that it remained safely hung inside the walls of a prison for almost 20 years. I can't even imagine the amount of hope it brought to the most emotionally destitute while hanging behind bars, and thinking about that amount is why it hangs with such reverence being "freed" today. There are times in our life where we feel confined behind emotional bars proves to be more helpful then forging ahead. It is only after being in the dark for a while that our eyes adjust and see that Christ is present doing some much needed healing.

Tonight, as I sit still on my couch and look upon the photos I took of the Subversive Cross, I remember that even though I am still, Christ is still working to heal the dark places.

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