The Upside Down Cross

The daily commute and normal people

Skytrain-BurrardI love taking public transit to work and one of the reasons is that it surrounds me every day with ‘normal’ people – those who are not followers of Jesus. I say normal because they are the majority – especially in my city.

Yesterday, a young woman in her twenties boarded the train dressed in black from head to toe and sat right in front of me facing sideways. She was sharply dressed and looked as though she might work in one of the large office towers in the city centre. Her style was like ‘professional Goth.’

As she was getting settled in her seat she turned her head to the side and I was able to see a tattoo on her left cheek. It was an upside down cross.

“I notice your tattoo, where did you get it done?” I asked. (If you are putting a tattoo on your face I figure you are inviting conversation.) She looked directly into my eyes pondering if she would even respond. Was I being judgmental or condemning? Why was this man even talking to me? Eventually she answered with the name of an artist and she had it done nine blocks from our church.

“I guess if you are going to get a tattoo on your face, you would sure want to have the right artist.” I answered. “My son gets his done by an artist in Calgary.” This seemed to suddenly change our relationship and I even got a small smile. Now, keep in mind, the entire time I am looking at a young woman the age of my oldest daughter-in-law. She is attractive yet her dark eye makeup and the upside down cross on her face shout out a defiance that I am sure comes out of deep hurt.

“What is the meaning of the tatt?”inverted-cross

Laughing she responded, “It is my way of giving the finger to organized religion”

“Well it is a very appropriate tattoo for this week,” I responded.

“Why is that?”

“Because the Pope announced he is resigning and he actually sits on a chair that has an upside down cross engraved on it.”

“He does? Unreal!” She was really mystified. “Why.. would the Pope have this on his chair?”

“Well maybe he wasn’t brave enough to put it on his face,” I quipped.

She laughed with a big smile.


“Before I tell you more, and out of respect for you, I want you to know that I am a minister. I work at First Baptist downtown.” She was flummoxed, her head now fully cocked to one side.

I continued, “I know that organized religion can be incredibly frustrating for people to understand and even experience.” More puzzled looks. “But the Pope has your symbol (pointing to her cheek) on his chair because for us as Christians it reminds us of Peter, one of Jesus’s disciples. Peter was  crucified on a cross like Jesus – but upside down. He was killed because he refused to renounce his faith in Jesus. He didn’t feel himself worthy to be crucified like Jesus and asked to be hung upside down..hence the cross on the Pope’s chair. The church was founded by this man – Peter.”

With a subdued softer bewildered look, she began to gather her things together getting ready for her stop. My morning friend did not seem anxious to run away and, had our commute allowed it, she might have liked to talk more.

Invite rather than tell

The Cross of St. Peter is shown in this French...

What will she think about when she looks in a mirror today, and tomorrow, and next week?

Inviting people to think, instead of telling them what to think is an effective way to engage normal people.

I hope I meet ‘cross lady’ again to continue the conversation.

6 thoughts on “The Upside Down Cross

  1. Thanks Carson! Your blog took me back to when I was one of your students…authentic, inviting and loving!

  2. Courageous conversation void of control. How refreshing. Thanks for choosing to surround yourself with “normal” people. It helps to keep us balanced. Thanks for the post.

  3. Awesome story Carson! I love that story about Peter, and you handled that situation with perfect tact and grace. Thank you for sharing this story.


  4. Thank you for writing this. It is true, many do not understand the real meaning of this symbol. I pray that your comment has started to sink in; that her tattoo is really an expression of her humility before Christ. All you can do is plant seeds. Well done. Oh by the way I am Catholic.

Comments are closed.