What the Cross has Meant to me

My assistant, Kimberly, passed a message to me from TBN at the end of last week asking if I might be willing to share what the cross of Christ has meant to me personally. They weren’t requesting a teaching. They were requesting a testimony. I couldn’t remember ever being asked for precisely that in those exact words.

Beth, what has the cross of Jesus meant specifically to you? 

Since I would have been writing a post for Holy Week anyway, I decided to try to articulate my response as best and as briefly as I could. What I know for certain is that my finite mind lacks the elasticity to stretch without snapping to the bounds of what the cross has meant to me. A vertical log with a reach “as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him.” A horizontal crossbar with a stretch “as far as east is from west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.” Who can estimate this side of the cloudy sky all He has saved us from and saved us for? All He has fought for us and won for us? And not the cross itself, of course. Our faith has no reliance in relics. Those two pieces of wood possessed no personhood, no atoning power. It was Jesus alone, hammered beyond recognition and nailed to them.

But within the limitations of my understanding and the language of story, what has the cross of Jesus meant specifically to me?

I have no memory of innocence. As young as I can remember, I bore an indefinable but unshakable sense of shame, guilt and anxiety. I do not know exactly what happened in those earliest days to bring such a cloud over a child so young. It was not until I was victimized a little later in my childhood that I was bombarded with silent horror by a sickening sense of familiarity.

Green kids

I have no memory of Jesus-lessness. The custodian of First Baptist Church of Arkadelphia, Arkansas rarely unlocked that east entrance to the public that the Green family, party of eight, did not pile out of a blue and white van and walk through them. We went to Sunday school and worship service on Sunday morning. We headed to choir late Sunday afternoon then stayed for Sunday night church, where our pastor delivered a different message from the one he’d given earlier. On Wednesday late afternoon, we headed to church after school and attended world mission classes (in our church a child’s first words would have been ma-ma, da-da and the-Great-Commission) and afterward we skidded down a linoleum floor to Wednesday night supper in our fellowship hall. I can still picture just exactly how that food was arranged on that plate: sliced ham (anemic pink) with a side-slice of deep red cinnamon apple. Same circle every time. Perfect hole where it had been pre-cored. Next to it were approximately 27 green peas – a little wrinkled but still well able to roll off the plate and onto the floor where all glad congregants could wear them home on the soles of their shoes – and a barely-browned dinner roll that split right down the middle like Baptists have a mind to do.

The moment Wednesday night supper was swallowed, prayer meeting up and followed and right there in that same fellowship hall. The plates clacking loudly in the kitchen became rhythmless percussions and the flatware, musical spoons, to an overture of the same deep, familiar amens voiced somewhere from the back. Strange how a disembodied voice could bring considerable comfort. In a world of disturbing undependability, we could depend on certain things around there like Brother Humphrey’s seven syllable a-a-a-a-a-a-mens. I went to Vacation Bible School every summer where my mother always served and, by the sixth grade, I helped in this class or that. We suddenly picked up – lock, stock and barrel – and moved to Houston, Texas when I was 15 and I continued the same pattern at a nearby church and would not miss a summer of VBS until I was 37. And lo, how it pained me to break that record. If I were given to lying in a testimony, I’d lie right now and tell you I hadn’t missed one yet. A person with my background wants in the worst way to have just one perfect record to humbly boast.

I accepted Jesus as my very own Savior around eight years old – Lord, how I wish I knew the exact date – and made it public before my church at nine. We stood up front in those days when we made decisions like that and congregants stood in line to shake our hands. I cried like a baby, face as red as a beet, caught completely off guard by the humiliating eruption of snot and tears. Those Arkansas gray-hairs, though. They understood. I know that now by the way they nodded their heads and smiled warmly at me. “Yep. We get it,” maybe the women were trying to say with the lipstick bleeding in the cracks of their mouths. “You’ll feel that way a lot of times and, by the way, this will be the best decision you’ll ever make.” Yes. I’ll give a thunderous seven syllable amen to that.

Our family had yet to suffer our peak years of instability. Those would come when I was in junior high and high school.

Madness.

This was my life. This parallel existence, tiptoeing, knees shaking wildly, on the tight rope hung between love and lunacy, where I was too terrified of heights to guess which way I would fall.

But fall, I did. At first just into occasional ditches. Then into an abyss so deep it seemed to have no floor. I tried to will myself into a reversal of gravity. I tried to repent my way into a reversal of gravity. Though I was utterly repentant and miserable and spotlessly forgiven by a merciful God, I continued to freefall, limbs flailing, and sanity teetering. I knew no other way. My theology had yet to collide with my reality. The belief in my heart had not yet jumped to life in my bones. I had been sorry before. Truly sorry. But I eventually returned to the same defeated pattern. I had a heart for God. I’d been mesmerized by Jesus since childhood. But I had a mind bent with torment. My battle would not have been obvious to most observers. I had been a successful student and an overachiever in endless organizations through both adolescence and young adulthood. But a reckoning had come. My past had come to reckon with my present and it would have a titanic effect on my future. How, as I free fell further and further into that black canyon, only time could tell.

I no longer knew who I was. If this Alice could have peered into a looking glass, the person she would have seen bore no resemblance whatsoever to the person she thought she was. She was dying. My infirmity, vulnerability, weakness and sin had joined forces and done me in. Life as I had known it was over. I, as I had known myself, was dead.

Hopeless.

And that’s when it happened. With the hardest jolt of my life, I fell with a deadweight thud into the arms of Jesus.

The person I had been before would twitch here and there for just a little while like there was just a little life left in her but, like a hen losing its head to a farmer’s ax, the old me finally gave up the protest, accepted she was dead and dropped to the dirt where she belonged.

Many years have come and gone since then and life has never lost its sharp, mean edge but I have lived adventures – some that are none of your business – with the One who caught me. He fought and won His bloody way to the incomparable love of my life and is, to date, the solitary good that dwells in me. He is a greater reality – this unseen Savior – than any human form I can see with natural eyes or touch with the skin of my fingertips.

I thought and, in many ways was taught, that the power of the cross was only for the lost. And I praised God for it and was awed by it and deeply thankful for it. I am still unspeakably grateful for it. Life with Jesus begins no other way. The lost must be saved. The sin-wrecked must repent. Eyes blinded to the Gospel must, by the work of the Holy Spirit, come to see. This is death to life for us all. Those who come, come this way alone.

But, the power of the cross has only begun to have its full sway when a man or woman is born a second time and, not by natural means but, by the Spirit. I got up again this morning by the power of the cross. I opened my Bible this morning and received the living, breathing word of God by the power of the cross. I prayed this very morning for impossible things to happen and had the guts to thank God in advance for miracles by the power of the cross. I came to my feet and proclaimed his greatness and his holiness and his power and his favor and his future over my family by the power of the cross. I kissed my husband of 37 years for the umpteenth time this morning by the power of the cross. My children love me and do not think me a fraud and, I promise you, only by the power of the cross. A few days ago I hugged a total stranger, a young mom named Lisa, tightly like she’d been my kin for years on end, right there in a grocery check-out line by the power of the cross. She told me with tears in her eyes how many times we’d  studied the Bible together. My memory of sin completely intact, the divine wonder of it was not wasted on me.

office verse her many sins forgiven

 

 

This coming Sunday at my church, by the power of the cross I will walk to the front and receive the elements from a man and a woman holding them out tenderly, accessibly.

Miss Beth, Christ’s body broken for you. Miss Beth, Christ’s blood shed for you. And I will want to cry. And  probably will.

I will sing what He has done for me. I will proclaim that I once was dead and now I live. And I will do so by the power of the cross.

Any and every victorious moment I ever experience is by the power of the cross. That the enemy did not and still has not destroyed me is by the power of the cross. The power of the cross saved me as a child and it saves me as an adult. It will save me in my death and, through its crimson gate, His glorious resurrection will raise me in God’s presence.

There I will see the face I long to see. There I will see the arms that caught me. There I will see the scars that saved me. There I will see the Lord’s Christ and know as I’ve been known.

Oh, that my words were recorded, 

that they were written on a scroll, 

that they were inscribed with an iron tool on lead, 

or engraved in rock forever! 

I know that my redeemer  lives, 

and that in the end he will stand on the earth. 

And after my skin has been destroyed, 

yet in my flesh I will see God; 

I myself will see him 

with my own eyes—I, and not another. 

How my heart yearns within me! 

Job 19:23-27


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103 Responses to “What the Cross has Meant to me”

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Comments:

  1. 51
    Paula says:

    Thank you Miss Beth,
    The cross is my lifeline, to life.

  2. 52
    Barbara Menefee says:

    Oh my goodness, Beth, you have just reduced me to a puddle of tears. I love you dearly, and I can se relate to your story, although I had a beautiful, innocent childhood, I threw it all away and have given in to sin too many times to count. Although every day is still a struggle, because of the cross, I can trust in Him. I surrender. I love. I am His.

    Thank you for your beautiful words. I love you dearly and long for the day when I finally get to meet you, my sister.

    Barbara

  3. 53
    Liz says:

    Thank you for your honesty, your ever lasting faith, and for always helping me understand scripture. Happy Easter Miss Beth.

  4. 54
    Crystal says:

    Wow! There isn’t much else I can say. Beth is a gifted communicator!

  5. 55
    Lee Ann Wright says:

    Wow and Wow! THE POWER OF THE CROSS! I praise my Savior who continues to show me THE POWER OF THE CROSS daily. Continues to forgive and direct, continues to love and pour mercy upon, continues to use me in spite of myself . . . oh the life-giving, thirst-quenching POWER OF THE CROSS!!! Praise You dear Jesus! Praise You!

  6. 56
    Carol says:

    Yes and yes. Thank you for your words of testimony that ring true no matter who we are.

  7. 57
    Trish says:

    Thank you for being a friend to me through your writing. Jesus uses you to reach my pain and bring healing.

  8. 58
    Kay Kurth, Ministry Assistant says:

    Precious Daughter of the King,
    We fall, we surrender, we repeat. Thank you for your story that encourages me, in the same fight we sisters have faced! Love you girl and keep up the fight! Grace Wins!

    Kay

  9. 59
    Karen E says:

    Thank you, Beth, for reminding me and us of the power of God’s cross. May God continue to “renew a right spirit within me” through my Lord and Savior, Jesus!

  10. 60
    Marie says:

    I needed to read this today. Thank you, Miss Beth, for reminding me that every single thing I am, have and do is because of Christ.

    By the power of the cross indeed!

  11. 61
    Janet says:

    Thank you for sharing so honestly and sweetly from the depths of your heart. Nothing could be sweeter, unless I were able to walk where Jesus walked in Israel this Holy Week!

    PS. This is the second time you have posted a photo that has a glimpse of a multi-book holder on your desk. Since the first time I saw it I have “googled” my brains out to no avail. Do you know where it was purchased? If memory serves me, your office staff gave it to you for an occasion?

  12. 62
    Tammy says:

    Thank you Beth for so eloquently giving voice to the very words of my heart. The power of the cross ….everything to me

  13. 63
    Dee Dee says:

    Thank you for this post. It has got me thinking and encouraged to write my own post about what the cross means to me. I think everyone should be reflecting on that very thing this time of year.

    There have been quite a few times I have read a post or listened to a lesson of yours and felt that I could easily relate to it or that it was something I could have said. Sometimes it feels like part of my own story. Thanks for listening to the Lord and inspiring others!
    Dee Dee

  14. 64
    Suey caldwell says:

    Wegm!!!
    do you have any idea what you mean to me????
    love you! Happy Easter!!
    thank you! grin
    Suey

  15. 65
    Theresa Clark says:

    Beth, Dear Beth<
    Thank you so very much for the way you share yourself and your love for Jesus. It makes days where I am in a vice grip seem less crushing as I know that I endure this with GREAT JOY to bring glory to my LORD and SAVIOR JESUS.
    He HAS defeated the enemy, though the enemy wants to destroy me…He CANNOT for I belong to JESUS! Hallelujah Amen! Holy, Holy! Man could not defeat JESUS and by HIS GRACE ALONE, neither will we!
    We suffer only for a little while for the great and glorious relief comes in the acceptance of the GIFT OF GOD in HIS ONE and ONLY SON, JESUS!
    Happy Resurrection Day!

  16. 66
    Helen says:

    Thank you Beth, for sharing your story. I am also someone who has studied much with you, and am eternally grateful for your willingness to share your life and your story in order to inspire so many of us!! You have truly taken what the enemy meant to use to destroy you and and used it against him!! For in that, the power of the cross has impacted me and my life!! Thank you!!

  17. 67
    Jenni Banicki says:

    What a powerful reminder. Moved to tears!

  18. 68
    Holly Watkins says:

    Thank you so much for sharing this! The power of the cross…no words.

  19. 69
    Kathy says:

    I so enjoyed your memories of growing up in the Baptist Church. They are sweet memories to me as well. Thank you for the reminder of the power of the cross on my daily life. I love him dearly but often get my eyes off of him and onto circumstances causing me stress. I pray that I can keep my eyes on him and trust him in all areas of life daily for strength for forgiveness for freedom for power and to be filled up with him. Thank you for all your hard work and sacrifice in serving others with God’s Word.

  20. 70

    Beautiful, Mama Beth. Beautiful. “Miss Beth, Christ’s body broken for you. Miss Beth, Christ’s blood shed for you.”

  21. 71
    Debbie says:

    Thank you so much for posting this today. Such a great reminder of how much Jesus did for me on the cross and the power of his forgiveness.

  22. 72

    Oh, the power of the cross! Thanks so much for sharing, Beth. Everything about us – our entire lives – only because of Him!

  23. 73
    Sarah Bailey says:

    Thank you, Beth, for your testimony, for your vulnerability, and for your transparency. You are a wonderful vessel of God and the number of lives you are impacting are countless. I am reading your “Audacious” book now, and I know that Jesus is tugging on me to step out and live more audaciously. Thank you for who you are and all you do, and for living “audaciously”!

  24. 74
    Lisa says:

    Dearest Beth,
    I’m the Lisa from the grocery line. I’m so incredibly grateful for all the Lord Jesus has done in your life…..and in mine. It was such a great honor to hug you (twice!) and to tell you how much I have learned from you. You made studying the Word of God come alive in ways I can scarcely describe without the beet-red-faced, snot, and tears we women know all too well. May God continue to bless you, my sister, my friend, my teacher, my fellow redeemed sinner.
    Lisa

  25. 75
    GJ says:

    This is the best Beth – you continue to give Him all the glory for everything, past/present/future.

    What a glorious hope-filled post! Hallelujah for the Cross of Christ.

    Thank you!

    GJ

  26. 76
    Melissa says:

    This is my story! I could have written most every word!

  27. 77
    Kathy says:

    Beth, I just arrived at my mothers home. She lives outside of Dallas . She is 89 & has severe dementia . I am running a care center for one in her home. I have not been able to get that precious photo of you & your siblings off my mind & the devastation you experienced as a child. I experienced severe anxiety that led to OCD as a result of family fractures & I can only imagine the impact that your abuse had on a brilliant sensitive child, YOU. I have to assume the assault on your life was because you were called to a ministry that frees women into the love of Christ. I have met & known many of Gods finest servants on this earth.You are in the business of saving souls demonstrating the truth of Christs redemption. No wonder the battle for your sanity was fought at the level you experienced. Thank you & may you continue to receive the love , support & healing of our Lord . I am facing a new crossroads & challenge of faith. I appreciate your ministry dear sister in Christ… Blessings to you & yours

  28. 78
    Deb S. says:

    Please know that I wait each year for your Easter message. You never fail to remind us of the power, strength, mercy and unfailing love that He gives. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

  29. 79
    Karen Oh says:

    Thank you, Miss Bess, for sharing your heart and your story with us. I am encouraged. He is risen…He is risen indeed!! Love you and thank God for you, Miss Bess.

  30. 80
    Susan Santoli says:

    Easter blessings to you and yours, Beth! By the power of the cross, you have brought Jesus to so many!

  31. 81
    pamela hutton says:

    Thank you Beth for your story. I’ve done many bible studies with you.

  32. 82
    Janice MacNealy says:

    Oh my Sister Beth~ your words are so beautifully spoken and yet I hung on to every word written, as I can relate in my own personal trials, and the tribulations I currently am going through…and yet I know by “His cross”, “Jesus” brings me through it all. Thank you for your servant’s heart and how precious you are & I adore your accent girl.
    Love & prayers Miss Beth, may God’s ministry continue to work through you and the staff that works with you. God Bless You All!!!
    Janice

  33. 83
    Kristi says:

    Beth, This was stunningly beautiful. And oh so honest. You have been and continue to be a role model for me of humble transparency. It has helped me survive the worst year of my life – which seems to not end. Thank you.

  34. 84
    Judy says:

    BEAUTIFUL….

  35. 85
    Tracy McDonald says:

    Thanks Beth, for your encouraging words. Thank you for pouring out your heart and soul sharing your thoughts and life with all of us.

    Just want you to know how much I appreciate all that you give of yourself to share God’s love and his Word.

    Tracy

  36. 86
    Laura Reimer says:

    Miss Beth….once again you leave me sitting here in my tears saying “Amen Amen”…pointing me to the Cross of my Lord and Savior but ever so grateful for the fellowship of the Body <3
    God bless you in all you do as you have surely blessed us all.

  37. 87
    marla says:

    AMEN. Beautifully and tenderly written.

  38. 88
    Michelle says:

    I am staggered and broken and humbled. Thank you.

  39. 89
    Faith says:

    This was just what I needed to read today. Recently I have been struggling afresh with a similar history and its implications for how I should now live and serve. As many times as I’ve done Bible studies with you, it struck me anew reading this how much we do have in common. Thank you for this.

  40. 90
    Misty Sanders says:

    Thank you so very, very much.

  41. 91

    Beth–you have such a gift of making me thrilled-out-of-my-socks to know Jesus each time I read or hear you. Thank you for being such an example of being who God made you to be!

  42. 92
    Andrea Porter says:

    You are so loved by me, Miss Beth. Thank you for introducing me to Jesus in the realist, most accessible way possible. He once was just a figure, a picture, an unknown, someone I admired from a distance because I did not know He wanted a relationship with me. That concept was so foreign to me, but now I am at the courting part of our relationship and I am still nervous. Do I look pretty? Is my hair okay? How’s my out fit? Will I know what to say or will I be tongue tied? What I do know and feel is that I can be the real me with Him and he is so gracious, so merciful, caring, loves to laugh and dare I say, smitten with me as I am smitten with Him. Just holding hands on the porch swing, visiting and sipping some good sweet tea. I know in my heart that this is so good and I have so much to look forward to, that is going to be a grand adventure and a grand relationship because of the cross he hung on to sit with me for all eternity.

  43. 93
    Lindsey says:

    What a beautiful testimony. I, too, learned the cross’ worth goes far beyond the day I accepted Jesus as my Savior. It sheds new light on the meaning “to pick up our cross daily.” I pick it up as a reminder and testament that I cannot go a day without it. I wear it. I carry it. I need it.

    Blessings,
    Lindsey

  44. 94
    Mary says:

    HalleluYAH! His words, coming through you, bless me more than you know….

  45. 95
    Donna says:

    I came by the BLOG to see how your offices sufficed the floods of Houston — looking for pictures maybe yet, I came across this. How I just sat on my break and read this — it comforted me and reassured me. Thanks dear one. I must come see you sometime.

  46. 96
    carla lee Lee says:

    Oh Beth! How is it that you can put into words the very expressions of my heart? I have been going through a strange time spiritually and still don’t know exactly how to describe it but here puts a lot of it into perspective. My heart, my spirit has been crying out to God to reveal to me what it is that I need to be whole again; all the while I think I just needed to revisit the cross and realize he hasn’t gone anywhere and I’m not perfect. Though i want to be the best for Him He loves me even still! it’s hard for me to wrap my head around that fact. as you said, My reality needs to catch up with my theology. SO HARD WHEN YOU’RE A PERFECTIONIST. Love ya Beth for your words of love and wisdom.

  47. 97
    God's Runner says:

    Thank you for your testimony! It’s beautiful!

  48. 98
    Heather G says:

    oh. my. gosh. That was the most beautiful true story of salvation I have ever read. The gift language you have is beautiful. What a beautiful love story of Jesus picking up a little girl with skinned knees, cleaning her off, and holding her hand into her future. Beautiful. Thank you.

  49. 99
    Terri Trail says:

    I have attended through our local church one of your studies (Esther) and have read some of your books. For whatever reason, I know it is a God thing, I feel a connection to you that I need in my soul. I have been struggling for the last three years and on the brink of destruction that I am scared to admit. After our class I told everyone I wish I could just carry you around in my pocket — and I think you could fit. I know God knows my heart (and I know he knows my short comings). I know he knows how I struggle with my love for him and my struggle to turn away for hatred, anger and weakness. Your story gave me hope – yet again. If you ever need a “pocket” to reside in, mine is open.

  50. 100
    Louise Denton says:

    Beth
    I hope it’s okay to share your words
    By the power of the Cross is really
    a powerful statement & I want to share that
    with friends& family. It’s such a simple statement
    but so moving. It touched so deeply
    This am & I have taken communion many times
    In my lifetime, but for this season of my life
    The thoughts you shared dug deep into my heart.

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