February 13, 2013

Grounded by the bare copper cross (Lent)

Candle and copper cross

I have a vivid memory of being shocked when I was 11 or 12 years old. We’d just shampooed the livingroom carpet, and it was evening. In my bare feet, in the dark, I shuffled across the wet carpet to a lamp. I fumbled with the switch, but the light didn’t come on. Maybe there wasn’t a bulb in the socket? I felt around under the lampshade to check, and when my finger went into that empty light socket—wow.

In recent years my husband Gene has done a lot of electrical work on our house, and he’s told me about the role of ground wires. Copper conducts electricity beautifully, so it’s often used for all the wiring in a house, including the ground wires. Let’s say a live wire comes loose in a lamp and the wire is touching the metal of the light socket. And now let’s say someone sticks her finger in the socket. If the lamp is grounded, the ground wire will draw the current away from the lamp, conducting it harmlessly into the earth.

It’s the same idea as a lightning rod on a building: the rod attracts the lightning’s powerful current, then gives it a path to take from the top of the building, down a set of wires, and through a copper rod that’s buried in the earth. This works because the earth has no electrical potential, so it can absorb the current.

When I was going through an intense time, Gene took a length of bare copper wire and hammered it into this cross for me, to help me stay grounded. It’s a symbol to me of Christ’s ability to take all that is too much for me. It’s the harmless path down which I can send all my intensity, and the intensity of the people and situations around me. No matter how much current is flowing, God, the ground of my being, has the capacity to handle it.

Blessings to you this Lent—may the symbol of the cross ground you and keep you safe from all that is beyond your limits.