It must have been church camp when I first heard the story of the cross store, either through a devotional talk or a skit. The story will always stick with me. I have to share it. And I hope you do too.
Three people walk into a cross store, one at a different time of day. I’ve never seen a crosses-only store, so bear with me. A Christian bookstore with lots of crosses.
Customer 1 walks in quietly, looking this way and that carefully. She approaches the counter and whispers, “I’d like to buy a cross, please?” Sounds unsure. The proprietor points to a number of impressive looking crosses, but she shakes her head. They’re all too big. As he moves his finger along, they get smaller and smaller. The customer checks her shoulder to see if anyone’s looking.
Finally, she sees a tiny display of crosses so tiny you can hardly see them without squinting. One can fit on a finger. “That one,” she whispers. “I’ll take that one.”
“Are you sure?” says the proprietor. “It’s cheap, but you hardly know it’s there.”
“Yes,” she says, glancing down shamefully. “I’d like one, but I don’t want anyone to know that I have one.”
“I see,” says the proprietor, and sells her the tiny cross. She quickly slips it into her pocket, peeks around the corner, and leaves.
Customer 2 slams open the door and struts in, announcing loudly, “I’ve come to the right place! I am here to buy me a cross!”
The proprietor nods, gestures to the available crosses.
“No,” says the buyer, chest sticking out. “I want a cross that sparkles. I want a cross that glistens. I want one fifty feet tall I can put in my front yard every day! Neon and boisterous! I want one that directs all the attention at me and lets everyone know, CHECK ME OUT! I AM A CHRISTIAN!”
The proprietor’s eyebrows perk up. “I’ve got just the thing.” He takes him out back to where a cross matching hid description stands ready to be shipped out. “It’s pretty costly,” he tells him. “You’ll be paying for it down the road too.”
“Won’t be a burden at all!” says the buyer. “I’ll just stick it up in my front yard. I’ll be the talk of the religious town.” He writes a check leaves the store grinning like a fiend.
Customer 3 enters, nervous and trembling with excitement.
“Can I help you?”
“Yes. I am here for the cross.”
“Which one would you prefer?”
“The only one there is.”
“I have small ones, if you—”
“No, I am not ashamed. I know it’s power.”
“Well, then I have nice big fancy ones that—”
“It’s message is strong enough. No decorations.”
“Do you know the cost?”
“Everything I have. I am willing to pay.”
“It has already been paid for.”
“Then it means that much more to me.”
“It’s heavy. Are you sure?”
“I know I won’t be bearing it alone.”
The customer takes the old, rugged cross, a worn, heavy, jagged trunk of wood. The nails were still in it. So were the stains of death. The customer left the store carrying that cross. It was heavy, wearisome, and trying. There was no glory in walking out with it, and it made him look like a fool.
But that is not the end of the story.