As part of our Lenten discipline this year at church we were given the option of carrying a nail with us throughout the season. The idea was the you used it in creative ways- maybe holding it while praying, placing it on the table during meals or carrying it in your pocket, so that it became a tangible reminder of God's love. As you can see, I chose to attach mine to a leather cord and have worn it most days during Lent.
This coming Sunday is Palm/Passion Sunday. This interesting wrinkle in the church calendar is designed so that people who only attend church on Sunday still get a crucifixion narrative. Otherwise if you never attended Good Friday you would go straight from Triumphal Entry to Risen from the Grave.
Well the plan is for us to have some large crosses at the church this week so that people can hammer their nails into them....
...I don't want to give mine up.
I normally don't wear any kind of jewelry (except my one ear piercing). I find rings and watches cumbersome and a distraction when playing the piano. I have a couple of necklaces, one of Kokopelli and the other of a Labyrinth, but they very seldom see the light of day. Consequently wearing a nail around my neck has been a new experience for me. It stays beneath my shirt, but I'm aware of its presence. I find myself touching the nail through my clothes throughout the day and offering up a little prayer of thanks to God for His love for me.
And now I am supposed to give that away.
Logically I know that I have become more attached to the nail than what the nail signifies. The symbol has become more important than the reality. There is a childish fear that by hammering my nail into a cross I am somehow surrendering my connection with God. If I give up the nail will I be embracing abandonment?
Pete Rollins addresses some of this in his essay The Contemporary Church is a Crack House. It is worth reading in its entirety. In it he talks how church becomes a salve for our pain, a place where we go to escape from pain instead of sitting in it and seeing what it can teach us.
I will hammer my nail on Sunday, and if it means I experience the loss of my connection with God, then I will trust that I will somehow recapture it again in other ways, and in the mean time I will take comfort that my loss of connection is just a pale reflection of Jesus' cry of despair 'My God! My God! Why have You forsaken me?'