I bought a light spring blouse at a thrift store the week before Easter. Holding it up to the light I could see what looked like lint at the bottom of the breast pocket. When I reached inside to clean it out, a small jade cross necklace rose in my hand.
The silver chain was badly tangled. Like prayer beads, I thought, as the untangling became more and more complex. It was an impromptu ritual on a day when I was deeply aware of my alienation from Jesus.
I thought about the rosaries I had held lightly in the past while looking for some sense of belonging. The rosaries had long since been tucked away with their prayers, but the comparison was noted, and my dormant wonder seemed to stir.
That sense of wonder grew to permeate the car where I sat waiting for my partner, hoping he would take his time. I spent precious moments thinking about how gifts come from unexpected places.
The jade stone had separated from the silver backing on one corner, but this went unnoticed until I’d worn it all the way home, then taken it off for a cleaning. As one who is quick to ascribe symbolism, the break soon became about my imperfect faith and about a God who wanted me to grapple with it.
Super glue seemed like the wrong thing to use on something so precious but it needed to be secured. Some of the glue stuck to my fingers in the process, with a smear instantly drying on the jade itself. It was a temporary flaw incurred through carelessness, and it became part of the story of redemption I was building. The whole piece was washed carefully, dried, and placed around my neck. I left it there, waking and sleeping.
Soon I unearthed from a dresser drawer a hand-sized silver cross. Every other time the clothing there had been rifled through and the cross had appeared, I felt sickened that Jesus died in this way, even though I knew it was central to the faith. I felt deeply saddened by continuing to leave this icon hidden away, not facing how angry I was at myself for not understanding the story and why he was crucified and for how alienated I felt from the man on the cross.
I have pursued spiritual meaning my whole life and have always had a strong belief in God. However, I was never able to accept my depth of feeling for Jesus nor move toward devotion to him. I accepted the resulting wound that found itself within as a kind of penance I participated in without the formal religion I had long since rejected.
But I came to believe I was sacredly gifted with the jade cross necklace, an event resulting in new consideration of the silver cross that was denied for so long. After a time of focused exploration of how God lives in me, meditation, stumbling through prayer, and a deepening contemplative life, I hung the hand-sized silver cross on the wall in my prayer space. It remains there beside a Celtic drum I received one Christmas from my partner, who believed in the wisps of spirit he saw in me and thought I might see myself as he did within its rhythm.
On the day the necklace no longer felt like a piece of jewelry to be worn, I took it off and carefully attached it around the drumstick which rested at the top of the instrument that, when drummed close to the body, would create the sensation of a heart beating. I draped it, perfectly centered, like it was meant to be there.
At least once a day I gaze at the two crosses, the fullness of recognition reaching deeply, finding its way to my center toward intimate relationship and belonging with the God who brought me here.
Cover image by Priscilla Du Preez.