The Joy of the Cross

Throughout the journey of being in Italy, I feel that God is constantly revealing different themes in my life that He wants me to focus on. The night we received the text that Alicia would have to go home for some time because of her mom’s illness, God showed me something beautiful and profound earlier in the day. I was not yet aware how much I would have to cling to what He made known to me on Friday, but I am hoping that the words I write today will speak to my heart all over again.

The theme God has impressed upon me these past few weeks has been that of perseverance. On Friday, I had a random whim to burn some energy by climbing to the top of hill where a basilica (big church) sits overlooking the city of Bologna. The walk up to the top of San Luca Basilica consists of about 300 stairs and is a little over two miles long. I was feeling some what frustrated that day with the challenge of language, however a quote I had read recently kept repeating in my head as I marched to the top. It goes like this: “It doesn’t matter how long it takes you, just so long as you don’t stop.” So I decided to keep going. Keep going up the difficult path to the top of the hill. Keep going with language learning. Keep going in this culture that is different then my own. Keep going in my walk with God, no matter what challenges I may face.

View on the way to the top

The long journey up

As I kept going up, I quickly remembered the thing that was motivating me in all of this: the cross. Without focusing my eyes on it, I know that I cannot “keep going”. I am weak. Easily frustrated. Swayed by emotion. Remembering that Christ is the one that will fill me up with His strength to persevere is so encouraging, because I know myself and I can’t do it on my own.

As I neared the top of the stairs to the place where the church stood, I saw a faint cross in the distance. The sun was shining brightly behind it, so it was difficult to see a clear picture.  The closer I came to it, the more I could see it plainly. I began to care less about difficult climb I had just endured, and could only keep my eyes fixed on the beautiful cross before me. I looked back for a brief second to see all the stairs leading up to the cross, and I realized at that moment that God was painting a picture for me. He was tying together perfectly the theme of perseverance, to help me realize that at the end of this life, I am not going to care about all the trials, challenges and difficulties I have endured. I am only going to be fixated on the cross, the instrument the Father used to draw me to Himself in order to make what was broken, whole.

A huge smile came across my face and I nearly danced as I began to understand the love He has poured out on us. The fact that we will one day not have any tears, trouble or suffering encourages me to persevere through the difficult days. When we are standing face to face with the King, we will not care one bit about the journey that got us there. We will be so enthralled with Him and His beauty that this world will be nothing but a faint mist.

As I stepped past the cross to another area on top of the hill, the beauty before my eyes was enough to make my knees buckle. I couldn’t believe His majesty as I looked in the distance at the rolling hills of Bologna. The leaves on the trees were shades of orange and red, and the sun fell upon them just so to create a perfect hue. A soft mist hovered above the green grass on the horizon. I was in awe. Is this what heaven will be like? I think that God gave me a little glimpse of heaven in order to help me remember during the challenging times that this life is not all there is. It is for the joy of the cross that we persevere. Jesus told us that, “In this world you WILL have trouble, but take heart because I have overcome the world.” John 16:33 He has overcome the world by the cross, so we fix our eyes upon the cross throughout the challenges we endure in this life. It is worth it!

San Luca Basilica

Shadow of San Luca on the far left: View from my house


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