Marcie hurriedly left her house as she often does to get to her teaching job. You would think after twenty years that she would be more efficient at getting herself ready and out of the house. She jumps into her car, starts it up and quickly backs out of her driveway. Once on her way, she allows herself to slow down, take a deep breath and take notice of the day. It is mid-October, so dawn has arrived, and she is still able to drive to work in daylight. She begins to think about how much she enjoys the early sunlight and how much she dreads driving to work in the darkness once daylight savings time ends. She is glad for the sunshine and the beautiful blue sky. As she drives, she scans the horizon and sees not a cloud in the sky. If only all days could begin like this, she thinks to herself.
She arrives at the school, parks and takes one last look at the beautiful sky. It is a habit that she has gotten into since she started teaching because she knows that once inside, she will not have any time to look outside even though her classroom has large windows. After looking upward, she freezes. She is stunned at what she sees. Above her, in the middle of the beautiful blue sky is a giant cross which appears to be made of clouds. She stares at it for a moment and is awed by such an amazing site and waits for the air currents to break it up and blow it away. She waits, but it the cross doesn’t change shape, it doesn’t break up – it stays. She can’t believe it. Shaking her head, she snaps herself back into reality and walks into the building. I wonder if anyone else saw the same thing? She decides that she will have to ask a colleague when she has her morning prep.
Well, she doesn’t have to wait for her prep to get an answer to her question. As her students enter her room, they are louder and more animated than normal. They ask her, “Did you see the cross in the sky?” They put down their belongings on the tables in the room and head straight for the windows. They chatter loudly and nervously as they stare out at the sky pointing to the cross.
Some of them turn to her, “Ms. Johnson, did you see the cross? Why is there is a cross in the sky? What does this mean? It doesn’t go away. Why not?” The questions come at her in a rapid-fire succession, so she is unable to answer them. “Okay, let’s calm down and talk about what is going on,” she says trying to project her voice over the student’s bantering. But they continue, “What is happening? Is this the end of the world? I’m scared. Maybe we should go home.” It takes a few moments, but they finally calm down and turn and stare at her. She can see the confusion on their faces. Some of them look fearful. She can see that they want and need an explanation, but she doesn’t know if she will be able to give them one.
A student offers, “Do you think this has anything to do with God?” Another chimes in, “If it is God, why would he put a cross in the sky? Is he mad at us?” Still another student says, “In my church they talk about when Jesus is going to come again. Does this mean that Jesus is coming, and the world is ending”? She stands facing them, speechless, not knowing how to answer their questions.
As a public-school teacher, Marcie is aware that she isn’t supposed to talk about religion to her students, but today from their questions and the event that has transpired, that seems unavoidable. She treads lightly because, although she is a Christian, she is just as confused as her students.
She tells them to take their seats so they can discuss what they are seeing. She begins by asking them what they think is happening and if they can explain what they are observing. They squirm uncomfortably in their seats until Emily offers, “I think that God is trying to say something to us.” The students all look at her, many shake their heads in agreement. One responds, “What do you think he is trying to tell us?” Another student, Joe, chimes in, “I’ve been told that Jesus is going to come back in 2,000 years. Maybe he’s coming back. Maybe that’s what the cross means.” Marcie struggles to find the right words to say.
Being a Christian Marcie is well aware of the book of Revelations and the end times, but she knows that she is no expert in the nuances of what the book says. She only knows that as Christians we expect the return of Jesus approximately 2,000 years after his death. How do I relay this information to my confused students some of whom are frightened and some of whom aren’t Christians or have no religious upbringing?
Marcie begins by asking the students how many are Christians? Most raise their hands. For the sake of the students who didn’t raise their hands, she explains to them the basics of Christianity. She tells them that Christians believe that Jesus is the son of God and that he died on a cross as a way of suffering and redeeming the sins of humanity and that, yes, as Joe stated, the Bible states that Jesus will return to the earth approximately 2,000 years after his death. Most students, even the non-Christians, have heard of Jesus but many did not know about his predicted return to earth. Marcie can see some of them getting very nervous. Again, a barrage of questions come at her. “Do you think we are all going to die? Is he mad at us? Are we going to go to heaven or will some of us go to Hell? My Dad always yells and curses at me and my mom, will he go to hell?” Marcie can see tears begin to form in some of their eyes.
She catches her breath and tries to stay calm. She feels that she must allay their fears, so she tells them that as a Christian she believes that Jesus is very loving and forgiving and that they don’t have anything to fear. She tells them that she doesn’t know if the cross is a sign of Jesus’ coming, but whether it is or not, it is an amazing event that we are lucky to witness. She tells them that they should go home and discuss what they are seeing with their parents and that she probably isn’t the right person to speak to them about what is happening. She tells them not to be fearful but if they are fearful and are religious that praying may make them feel better. She takes a deep breath and asks if they have any questions. No questions, just blank, anxious and fearful stares.
Wanting to start the day and get their minds off of the fear that has enveloped them, she treads lightly and tries to begin the lesson that she had planned, but she can see that their minds aren’t on school. She offers them a Jolly Rancher, their favorite candy, which brightens their moods slightly and then decides to do a review game with them instead of trying to teach them something new.
Marcie’s discomfort is short-lived. An announcement comes over the PA system stating that the school will close early. She later learns that many parents had called the office, and many had come to the office unexpectedly to pick up their children. They seem to be as nervous as the students. Marcie is relieved. Although intrigued by the cross and not particularly nervous about its meaning, she is glad to go home and not have to deal with the uncertainty and upset of her students.
Once home, Marcie turns on the television to see what is being said about the cross in the sky. She quickly learns that the cross can be seen from any part of the world. If the sky is sunny, the cross is made up of clouds. If it is cloudy, a cross is cut out in the cloud cover. Regardless of where the cross is, it doesn’t lose it shape. The air currents do not disfigure it. It stays put.
Marcie turns off the television and makes herself a cup of tea. She puts on a heavy wool sweater to ward against the cool October air and sits on her deck. In between her sips of tea, she stares at the cross in the sky pondering its meaning. She thinks of all of the negative news that bombards people each day. It seems that the world is full of hatred, political division and suffering for so many. She thinks of the pandemic that has just wreaked havoc on the world. As she warms her hands with her hot mug, she finds herself smiling and thinks if the cross is tied to the second coming, I would welcome it.