The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


Object lesson

A father's long-ago gift brings a new experience of God

After what I thought to be an impressive display of patience, I completely lost my temper. My children—the object of this meltdown—looked on while I bawled them out with amazing proficiency.

Then I took myself down to the basement for a time-out. Flicking on a light in the murky darkness, I looked around and cringed at the cobwebs covering old boxes and furniture. It was a great place to be miserable.

Photo of a wooden cross.The sight of a familiar object interrupted my thoughts. A vivid memory broke through the mist of my motherly guilt.

It was of me, a curious 4-year-old, seated next to my dad as he fitted pieces of wood together with glue. “Lori, this is a cross for you,” he said, laying it in my small hands and telling me the story of Jesus’ death on the cross. Afterward he took a pen and wrote “For Lori” on the place where the wood intersected.

Though I was little, I knew the importance of the gift. I kept that cross on my bureau for many years. But over time the memory faded, and the cross ended up in this box of childhood mementos.

Now, 30 years later, I stood in my basement, the cross in my hands and the Spirit within me. I wondered anew at the meaning of the inscription “For Lori.” Indeed, it is for me. God’s overwhelming generosity, shown in sending his own son, is a personal gift for each of us.

Reflecting on the shameful state of my heart just moments before was enough to send me out of the shadows, back to my children. It was time to ask their forgiveness and give them mine.

I brought the cross my dad made back upstairs too. It’s a reminder of my close encounter with God in the basement, a reminder that God never loses patience with us no matter how many mistakes we make.


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