The Comfort of the Cross

As a child, I spent summers at a boy’s camp in Maine on Lake Sebago one of the largest lakes in the state. The camp was on an island surrounded by an expanse of water. When you’re getting bullied that’s a very trapped feeling. I don’t have time to go into the details of all I suffered in my childhood, but suffice it to say my doctors describe my childhood–not as “abuse”–but as “torture,” including attempted murder.

Being a typical institution for the sons of rich people, the camp Director would lead us in raucous filthy sailor songs on Saturday night, and march up the hill Sunday Morning to a little outdoor chapel on top of the cliff (called Frye’s Leap). There were stone benches around a stone altar and a priest would dress the altar and hold the Mass. I felt God’s presence there even though, having been raised atheist, I didn’t know that’s what it was

Whenever I managed to escape unnoticed that chapel was the place I would always go because the boys were never there and God always was  I would crawl up under that nice cold stone altar and feel the cool shade as I felt safely hidden away. But I could only stay so long. Within two or three days the thirst always drove me back into the arms of the surprised mob who had laughingly assumed I had fled to the interior forest and died.

I sing in my church choir and yesterday we were given the following song to practice. Halfway through I choked up. The song, “The Sparrow’s Song” by Joseph M. Moore, triggered those exact same emotions I had as a child hiding under that altar. If you want to experience what an abused child feels like and how deeply he craves love and security, if you want to experience what it feels like to surrender everything to a loving God, open your heart to the following lyric:

“I will build my nest in the arms of the tree

Sang the sparrow soft and low

The cross that stands up on the hill

Will keep me safe, I know.”

“For the tree will be a shelter strong

A Tower high above

A place where I can sing my song

And know that I am loved

“I will build my nest in the arms of the tree

That held the Lord of Life

The keeper of all fragile things

The one who gave me flight

For he sees me when on clouds I soar

He hears me when I sing

He holds me close through every storm

I am safe beneath his wings

Tree of Mercy

Tree of Grace

In your shadow there is hope.

Tree of Comfort

Tree of Life

In your branches I am home.

In your branches I am home.

I will take my rest at the foot of the tree

Said the sinner tired and worn

Beneath the cross of Calvary

Is where I’ll make my home

“For the cross will be my tower of strength

My secret hiding place.

And in its shadow I will fall,

And give myself to grace.

And give myself to grace.”

“The Sparrow’s Song” by Joseph M. Moore (Shawnee Press)

You can listen to it here:

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