When I survey the wondrous cross
On which the Prince of Glory died
My richest gain I count but lost
And pour contempt on all my pride.
I wrote the words to that old hymn from Isaac Watts in my journal, while I fought back internal emotional pain. I WANTED to pour contempt on all my pride, but it kept haunting its possessor.
Then I decided to really try to “survey the wondrous cross” and I went into a little daydream that morning in my quiet time, which I will never forget. It was a daydream that forced surrender of my heart, once again.
In the distance, I saw not one, but three crosses on the hill. A crowd of people surrounded the base. There was noise: people’s voices, but I couldn’t understand what they were saying.
I stared at the center cross as I walked closer, praying that I would stay focused on Him,
despite the distractions of this crazy surrounding world. I wanted to “be one” with other people as He was one with God, so that people would know why He came; yet I battled conflict in my heart. I wanted to survey that wondrous cross and leave the conflict behind.
I saw guards, Roman I assume, in costume as the movies had portrayed. Some spectators on the hill were on their knees, in a deep mourning wail. Others were shouting insults toward the cross. Others were simply walking away, not able to “survey” any longer.
I looked at His face. Jesus’ eyes were still open. He looked down on all of the people – the crying, the shouting and even the leaving and I remembered His words, “Forgive them; they know not what they do.”
What wondrous love is this that He could forgive even in agony?
Agony caused by lashes of a whip tied especially for breaking skin on His bare back while authorities held His flesh taut for maximum tearing.
Agony caused by friends, even His closest, who had deserted Him. One betrayed with a kiss, others with their departure or denial.
Agony caused by a crown of thorns forced onto His head to pierce the skin, while they mocked Him as a “king”.
Agony caused by taunting hours before, “If You are so great, why don’t you tell us who hit You?” as they struck his blindfolded face.
I imagined how He must have felt as people sang, “Hosanna!” at His coming to town, so grateful for His arrival; then in contradiction, people screamed, “Crucify Him!” just days later, treating Him like the criminals on the adjacent crosses.
“How did He restrain from fighting back?” I wondered when I recalled his accusers bringing Him to Pontius Pilate, telling the lies that He had denounced taxes and that He was undermining the government. (Luke 23) He stayed focused on His message: He was the Son of God. When King Herod tried Him, Jesus never even spoke, as if wrestling with the pig wasn’t worth words. He was at peace with allowing God’s will to be done through Him. “Why can’t I do that?!” I wondered.
Crucifixion, a slow, lingering electric chair of the era was so cruel, so public, so naked. There was no way to “look good” even as the Son of God hanging on that wood. Nails pierced his hands and feet.
Three men died that day at Calvary. One on the cross next to Jesus jeered at Him, while the other, in full belief said, “Jesus, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.” That is when Jesus told the latter, “I tell you the truth: today you will be with me in paradise.”
I broke out of the dream and thought back onto myself. I could see me saying, “I’m kind of having a bad day here. My emotions are out of control; I’d really like some time on this cross where I don’t have to deal with you people.” Yet Christ had a message to relay: that heaven awaits; and it is waiting for anyone who believes – even in his last hour.
My daydreaming continued, and I found a ladder. I set it next to Jesus’ cross, and began to climb. I wanted to survey the Savior.
The sweat, mixed with blood, poured from His body. I recalled His “sweating blood” during a deep prayer just nights before, though His closest friends’ loyalty faded in sleep. I meditated on even Him, asking His heavenly Father for a change of The Plan, yet what He wanted was that God’s will be done.
The daydream paused as personal thoughts came in: That’s what I want!: God’s will be done. Yet so much conflict, how can it be?
In my daydream, my actions continued, I wanted to get closer, to talk to Jesus as He hung on that cross, looking down on the people. “Did e’er such love and sorrow meet,” came to mind from another verse of the same hymn.
From His view I could see His accusers, and mine too. “He died for them, also,” I was reminded.
I leaned toward Him to whisper, bringing my lips close to His ear and tried to form words. Thoughts flooded my mind:
“Jesus, SHE won’t return my phone call!”
“Jesus, I am so jealous that I didn’t get what I wanted.”
“Jesus, I have been WRONGED, and they are going to make me look bad.”
A smile came to my face, in self-laughter. What?! I would NEVER have been able to say that into His ear from atop the ladder! How petty! How selfish! He died for me, can I not live a moment for Him? After climbing that ladder to truly survey the wondrous cross the only thoughts that could come to mind were unsaid, choked back by tears:
“I am SO unworthy of this sacrifice.”
“I am so sorry.”
He glanced in my direction as if to answer my unspoken words, “I know. It’s why I came.”
As I snapped out of my daydream, tears flowed as I realized how petty my prayers had been that morning.
He gave His life for me; can’t I live a moment for Him?
When my pride gets in the way: I climb the ladder.
When I feel like I have been wronged: I climb that ladder.
When I am jealous, I climb the ladder.
If I am talking too much about myself, I need to climb that ladder.
If I am feeling perfect enough to start correcting others, I climb the ladder.
If I am more worried about the scrutiny of man than the scrutiny of God, I CLIMB THE LADDER.
Are my thoughts worthy of whispering in His ear from the top of the ladder?
Whisper in His ear about the parents who just lost children this week. He cares.
Pray to Him about the woman lost in the dark world of depression. He’s holding her.
Ask Him in His ear how best to be His testimony in this lost world and He would be relieved to know someone read His Words so they would outlast His agony.
I had “open heart surgery” that morning. I surrendered. His will be done.
He has the whole world in His hands, not my hands, and that is where it needs to stay.
I pray this holiday season that we may be ONE so the world will know that the Lord above sent Jesus Christ as our Savior (John 17:21): He humbled Himself to human birth – in a stable; He submitted to baptism – by another man; He washed filthy feet – of those lesser than He; He died a criminal’s death – alongside heathen, for God’s glory. May we follow His example to true humility; I am above nothing. Peace on earth comes into our hearts when we can rest in God’s will being done.
And if conflict arises, even if only inside of us, may we climb the ladder to rise above the offense, survey the cross, and take time to whisper in His ear, “Thank You.”
Pride/Ego Summary of Symptoms:
Beginning introduction: (Turkey Tastes Better Without Lily Pads.)
- Talking too much about oneself (“Wanna Talk about Me!“)
- Wanting to correct others (“That’s not the Right Seat!”)
- Caring too much about what people think/ resisting apology (“Whose Baby is This?!”)
- Being secretly jealous/ Feeling “underblessed” (“The Most Difficult Instrumentalist to Fund”)
- Taking laws lightly (“Stop in the Name of the Law”)
Other symptoms (and this list is probably endless):
- refusing to forgive/bitterness
- ranking people as more or less valuable than one another
- talking down about others (close relative to talking about oneself)
- resisting new information