When my wife and I were first married, my brother gave us a crucifix for Christmas. It was ugly.
Not ugly like one would assume a desert wanderer to be.
Ugly like the racist image of European perfection. The face of a movie star. Brad or Johnny, maybe. Muscles flexed. A perfect six pack. Not a scratch on him. The look on his face might suggest that he was only mildly annoyed with his arrest and execution, as if to say: “My God, my God, is this gonna take long?”
The edges of the cross were not hard wood, but adorned with a sort of crown molding, each end carefully crafted into a flower. This was a decorative piece. Hardly an event to be testified to and mourned.
I did not have any intention to work out frustration or get creative when I entered the garage. I just wanted to have a smoke and listen to some music. Throw some darts and end the weekend in relaxation. My wife had been finishing some furniture where the gaudy image was hanging, exiled from the high traffic areas of our space ever since I brought it home from that Christmas gathering 4 years earlier. I picked up a can of spray paint at random and sprayed his face: yellow. Then another: blue. Another: green. I picked up a jar of white house paint, dipped my fingers in and flung the milky splatter across it. I ashed my smoke on his head once and then, liking the visual effect, dumped a near-by ash tray over it, the grit sticking to the wet paint.
I stared at it. I spit at it.
I felt, all at once, shame and freedom. Like blaspheming and worshipping. Like crucifixion and resurrection. Like servant and king.
INRI, written above on a waving banner like a flag of war. “King of the Jews.”
King of those who wander the desert, complaining. King of those who would push him away. King of those who would conspire to have him killed because they could not stand his voice any longer.
King of me, heretic. Who spat on his face and put a cigarette out on his ribs.
King, perhaps, of those tired of being forced to bow.
Of those whose hearts begin to wonder and dance, like flowers turning to face the new sun, at the hope of a God who gets down with us. We look forward to days, experiences when those silly thoughts can be pulled from the dusty shoe boxes in the closets of our minds. Or, we hope, from everyone’s mind!