The Story of the "Rock Cross Club"
Year ago, I was given a box of rocks with crosses by Mr. Roy Gilbert, Sr. They were smooth, had a great shape, with crosses painted on them in different colors. They sat on my desk for some time. I used one as a paper weight and would carry one in my pocket from time to time.
A few months after that is when 'the club' started.
I was the high school Dean of Students, but was asked to come and work a discipline issue in the junior high because the principal was off campus at the time.
I walked into his office, only to find a 7th grade boy shaken up to the point of tears. To say he had had a miserable day is quite an understatement... it was one of those days that make the middle school experience very difficult.
My heart breaks when I remember these types of stories and they often follow a consistent narrative. It often isn't one bad bully, it normally is a day where it is 'torture by 100 ant bites'. In an effort to be cute, or to impress others, or just being plain evil... this kid was made fun of for the sheer sake of entertainment.
This post is NOT about the difficult steps and strategies that have to be done to protect the target and bring consequences to the persecutors. Sometimes, you can actually make the situation worse! But I also can't have a kid on my campus who dreads coming to school every day! Over the years, I had some great successes in some of those kinds of cases and some epic failures as well. Often, it feels like the pressure that someone on a bomb squad must feel as he diagnoses which wire to cut!
But this particular story went really well. After a lot of listening about what happened that day, I happened to notice I had that rock in my pocket. I pulled it out and went through a speech that I repeated for almost 8 years in a number of different situations.
"Andy ( Joe, Sam, Billy), I wish I could snap my fingers and make this all go away right now. But this is going to take some time and we will need to pray for wisdom on how to walk through this.
I am going to give you something.... but understand...this is NOT a good luck charm, and there is nothing magical about this, but it may help remind you of how we are working through this."
At that point, I handed him the rock.
"Maybe this symbol will help you as it helps me. The rock is strength.... and the Bible says that Jesus is a rock that we can build our lives on. And when the storms come, our house will not fall. And of course, the cross is such an important symbol and message. It points to the pain Jesus experienced, as well as proof that He loves us.
Keep this rock n your pocket, and when things get hard, hold that rock, pray, and remember that you can make it! I encourage you to show it to your parents, but you don't have to respond to anyone."
And then we would talk about a two fold strategy.... things I could do to help him be stronger and then things I needed to do to put the bullies on notice in a way that protects the target from reprisals. (And we are always appealing to the by-standers to take up the cause and protect the vulnerable through education, conversations, etc). Again, this is such an impossible task.... complex... and this is a major reason why we pray. (This is a very 'simple' recount of often complex issues where we have to get counseling help and others as well!)
Even though this kid was in the Jr. High, I followed up with his parents and checked in with him every few days. Again, I am leaving a lot out, but the investigative/corrective work is rather exhausting and fraught with landmines!
To my amazement, that little rock ended up being a huge part of the growth process!
He would walk by me from time to time and show me that rock. I nodded and carried on.
Over time, I would utilize this technique in some different situations. And it almost always went that same way. I ended up buying boxes of replacements from time to time.
About 6 years later... it all came full circle.
I was called down to the office and it was a major deja vu ! A 7th grader was having a very bad day!
And the very first kid I have ever given a rock to was now a senior... and was nothing like the little 7th grader from years before. He was well liked, an successful athlete, student... and had a great heart to help people.
So I called him down to the office and asked if he would help me.
And I sat back and watched the senior give the little speech, 'nothing magical, not a good luck charm' and he pulled his rock out... still in his pocket... and it had ALL of the paint rubbed off of it, though the carved cross was still prominent.
"But this has sure helped me stay steady in tough times!"
I'm a pretty stoic person, but was wiping tears away as the kid took his rock... and we began to pray about what we needed to do to make it through.
I soon realized the 'club' was a fraternity of brothers who have learned to stay steady' love, forgive, and serve... there a lot of members out there!
A week or so later, this senior and I made a 'thank-you' video and sent it to Mr. Gilbert. That small gift turned into a real ministry and reminds me of an important passage.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort,  who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.  For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.  If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer.  Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort. (2 Corinthians 1:3–7 ESV)
So how does this potentially apply to us?
Human nature, the history of God's people, current trends in a 'woke' cancel oriented culture could be signals of a soft totalitarianism to people of faith... especially Christians.
Just as it was convenient for Nero to cast blame regarding the fires in Rome... we must not be surprised if such charges and actions are utilized to suppress religious liberty.
In times of persecution, even so called 'soft' totalitarianism, there will be a need to, figuratively, 'join the Rock Cross club' as we hold on to the rock and stand firm in the storm.
Our family 'cells' will have to bond together, and we must get in the habit of joining forces with others that may see it a little differently than we do... but can work to be mutual protectors of religious liberty.
Our local churches must be havens of love, encouragement, and service.
We have to hold fast to faith, hope, and love.
This is what I am going to explore quite frequently in my next few blog posts....
A final note- this Christmas break I found a rather LARGE number of podcasts that were run by young, intelligent, highly credentialed young people who were articulating a hopeful message... I do believe there is a generation who want to save our republic and reject the identity politics approach to public discourse and policy.
Two such podcasts were from self described 'liberals' who were quite bold in their concerns about the radical left.
I want to be a part of the solution.... not a part of the problem.
Let's keep praying and not become hand ringers and doomsday prophets.
Christ is still the Prince of Peace... and His love and forgiveness can work miracles.
He still calms the storms and settles the seas!
More to come!