So I’ll cherish the old rugged Cross
Till my trophies at last I lay down
I will cling to the old rugged Cross
And exchange it some day for a crown ~ Rev. George Bennard
Recently, I was practicing my breathing exercises and praying during my morning meditation. In the midst of this discipline, the song, The Old Rugged Cross came to my heart – specifically the words, I will cling to this old rugged cross. Because I was trying to clear my mind and focus on my breathing and body, I dismissed this lyric and continued to focus on what I thought mattered the most during this time. As I reflected on this song later in the day, I was reminded of the person who introduced me to this song.
You see, she was somebody in her 90+ years of living who had, in her words, a fair share of ups and downs, but whenever she sang this song, a comfort and joy came over her. She would often testify that regardless of what was going well or not going well in her life, that clinging to the old rugged cross consistently gave her the strength to embrace life’s daily joys and challenges; and that, she experienced the comfort of this grip whenever she was in the company of her beloved congregation. These moments with everybody she would often articulate felt like her temporary crown. Eventually, she would always make a joke about the difficulties of making it to worship because her mode of transportation seemed to always be on its last leg, but that she will continue to praise God and cling because her mode of transportation always seemed to get her where she needed to be.
On this particular day, life didn’t go as planned and was more hectic than normal. I continued my breathing exercises, got outside to enjoy the air and went to God in prayer. But what brought a genuine smile to my face and calmness in my soul was signing this song that came to my heart in the early morning and remembering the testimony of this dear sister in Christ. There were many times throughout that day in which I felt I was on my last leg, but with God’s help, I kept clinging and praising God. The day was rough, but by the end friends had texted, my children ran into our bedroom, jumped on the bed and asked to cuddle with me and my wife and watch a movie, and I felt a peace from God that engulfed my being…this moment felt like my temporary crown.
The author of this song, George Bennard, wrote the first stanza of this song after a difficult day. He later finished the song after participating in an upbeat and powerful evangelistic revival. Regardless of what goes or doesn’t go well; our ups or downs; or our highs and lows, clinging to our faith gives us the strength to embrace it all; and, until we experience the divine truth of this old hymn – we can praise God for the simple moments where it is all exchanged for earthly moments of peace and gratitude surrounded by a beloved congregation of people.
Despite social distancing, we can intentionally live as the beloved congregation. Reaching out to those who you know are experiencing life changing moments or sending care packages to someone just because. For me, I think I will turn the tables and run and jump into my children’s bed – taking up their space. Though some days may feel like we are on our last leg, these are also great days full of hope and possibility. Throughout it all, may this song – or your song of hope – bring a genuine smile to your face, a calmness to your soul, and the strength to surround someone else in love.