I remember distinctly singing this hymn for the first time as tears poured down from my drunken hung over eyes. My life flashed before me and though many great things had happened, I pretty much screwed them all up through my addiction. At that moment when I decided to make a change, give my heart and soul to Jesus, I was broken and I surrendered to the man who hung on that old rugged cross.
In the years that have passed since that decision there have been many unexpected surprises, twists and turns, but through it all my faith has always been centered on him and not the folks around me. After being through a physical war that molded many of my actions, the spiritual war seemed so much easier because someone had already paid a price for my transgressions.
As I traveled on I-10 in Alabama last week I passed several crosses on the side of the road representing the memory of lost loved ones, and in one area there were two and I paused for a reflection on how much that loss meant to their families. I now understand. And I now understand how much pain was in the air when a young 33 year old carpenter was sent to a death that was necessary for me to gain redemption.
This morning, traveling to church with my grandson Logan, we passed another cross, this one had RIP Paul Yankowski carved on it at the intersection of Five Forks Trickum and Killian Hill Road. The flowers and plants still there it glistened in the sun in memory of my fallen son.
I spoke with Logan about it then under my breath I again sang that song, tears pouring down my now sober face, and it all came together for me. Without the redemption at that old rugged cross there would never have been a Paul, there would never have been another chance to get fatherhood right.
Now he has a cross to remind us of him, and we have a cross to bear in his absence that is one of disbelief, sorrow and loss. But as the words began to come back to me, I thought of what Paul wrote in his Reinforcer Survey at the age of 5. "I like to read books about Mickey Mouse and Bible verses."
And the words I remembered were loud and clear....."and I'll cling to that old rugged cross and exchange it one day for a crown".
Last night I read the same book to Logan and Athina (Briana listened too) that was one of the favorites of Paul and Briana, "Mickey Mouse and the Woodcutter". Afterwards we had a prayer, and today Logan asked me to take him with me to church.
It's not how much time we have someone with us that counts, it's how you spend the time with them that matters. And it doesn't hurt to keep talking and singing about that old rugged cross even if we don't think they are listening!
Glenn is an ex-Marine Viet Nam vet who is also a recovering alcoholic, clean and sober for 30 years. He has been involved in start up and ongoing recovery ministry at North Atlanta Church and Campus for the last two decades. He has a passion for outreach and to spread the message that the answer to lasting and fulfilling recovery from addiction is in a relationship with Jesus Christ. He and the ATB team are available to assist in your questions or needs on an individual basis and will do so maintaining complete confidentiality. You may e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.