I just had a really difficult weekend. I was anxious almost every moment I was awake, with all the symptoms: racing heart, shallow breathing, shaky legs, shaky hands. In fact, my daughter even noticed in church that my hands were shaking considerably.
I have a good idea what causes this anxiety—it comes from a large package of events all tied together in one weekend. A birthday in the family (not my birthday), family visiting from out of town, members of the family getting ready to go back to school (including me getting ready to teach), members of the family with health issues and with money issues, a big reception where I work tomorrow night for which I am preparing a display, and one or two other things I am not going to mention at this time.
It seems, though, that in the trying times in my life, one small happening always comes to symbolize them all. That one event, no matter how unconnected to the other concerns, becomes the focus of all the anxiety. This weekend that small event was the discovery, Saturday night, that the chain I was wearing around my neck no longer had the silver cross, one that has been on that chain for the thirty years I have owned it and worn it.
Now it’s just a piece of jewelry, a reminder of the true cross, but a silver cross all the same, with no magical or superstitious powers. No doubt it could be replaced. Losing that cross, though, was the final straw in a weekend gone wrong. Of course Sunday morning after breakfast and before church I walked through the house, trying to see where the cross had landed. It has come off its chain before, but I usually find it in my clothing. I searched and shook the clothing I had worn on Saturday. I was pretty sure the cross was still on the chain when I got home from the library and changed clothes Saturday afternoon, so I thought the cross should be in the house. Members of the family were helping me look.
Then I remembered that I had made a quick run to Walmart after changing clothes. Since there was time, I went back to Walmart, checked the parking lot, then asked at the customer service desk. Someone even got a key and checked the locked drawer where Walmart keeps more expensive lost items that have been found in the store. The cross was not there. I walked through the store to the aisles where I had shopped, but the floor was clean everywhere. I looked carefully in the parking lot again, then went home to go to church.
During the Bible readings at church, I remembered that I had spent some time reading Saturday afternoon with a purring cat curled up in my lap. (To add to the irony, that cat entered the family’s life in that same Walmart parking lot last fall.) The time spent reading and petting the cat came to mind in church because it had been the most calming part of the weekend so far. I remembered that I had looked at the floor in that room but had not felt through the cushions of the chair. I did my best to put the missing cross—and all the other worries of the weekend—aside to take part in the service. Then, when we got home from church, I checked throughout and under that chair.
No, the missing cross was not there.
Later Sunday afternoon I was walking through the kitchen—pacing through the house, actually, while trying to do some writing—and glanced toward the pantry. I had looked in that pantry for the missing cross more than once that morning and that afternoon. I even remember searching through a basket on the floor. Now, I saw, next to the basket, a plastic bag filled with plastic spoons and knives that had been there for days. The missing cross was lying right on top of that bag. It must have fallen off the chain while I was getting a snack Saturday night, but I cannot explain the fact that it went unseen. It was in an obvious place, very close where I had looked hard for it earlier in the day.
So now I can say to you all: rejoice with me, for I have found the cross that I had lost. Additionally I can trust that the answers to all the other worries and stresses of the weekend are also somehow lying in plain sight, ready to be seen when I have been prepared to see them.
And, somehow, it seems to me, those answers might also involve a cross.