telephone pollFor my 40th birthday this year my parents gave me a gift card to Borders Books (they know me by now).  A couple days later I was thumbing through shelves upon shelves lined with new books when I stumbled upon John Stott’s classic (The Cross of Christ, 1986), which was published the year before my life and entire outlook on everything was forever and radically altered one ordinary night at a car dealership in Phoenix, Arizona.  It was $25 (hardcover 20th anniversary edition) and so was my gift card.   

Last night I picked it up and started reading (I’d merely given it my customary casual glance several months back I do with 90% of the books I check out at the library, and the ones I bought when books were in the budget).  Stott tells of the famous British journalist and author Malcom Muggeridge and his conversion experience which included a turning away at first (taken from his book “Jesus Rediscovered”).  The only Jesus he knew growing up was a “Jesus of good causes.”  I could so relate.  Who I regretfuly spent most of my teenage years running from (a sort of deified Mister Rogers), turned out to be someone altogether different from the Jesus I’d envisioned even in my craziest dreams.     

[Malcolm Muggeridge] became uneasy about ‘this whole concept of a Jesus of good causes.’  Then:

I would catch a glimpse of a cross—not necessarily a crucifix; maybe two pieces of wood accidentally nailed together, on a telegraph pole, for instance—and suddenly my heart would stand still. In an instinctive, intuitive way I understood that something more important, more tumultuous, more passionate, was at issue than our good causes, however admirable they might be. . . .

It was, I know, an obsessive interest. . . . I might fasten bits of wood together myself, or doodle it. This symbol, which was considered to be derisory in my home, was yet also the focus of inconceivable hopes and desires. . . .

As I remember this, a sense of my own failure lies leadenly upon me. I should have worn it over my heart; carried it, a precious standard, never to be wrested out of my hands; even though I fell, still borne aloft. It should have been my cult, my uniform, my language, my life. I shall have no excuse; I can’t say I didn’t know. I knew from the beginning, and turned away.

Later, however, he turned back, as each of us must who has ever glimpsed the reality of Christ crucified. For the only authentic Jesus is the Jesus who died on the cross.”