Three Wooden Crosses

Category: Families & Generations, Weekly Columns

I have the joy of living across the street from a beautiful man-made lake. There is always roving fowl and other wildlife in and around the lake and it’s an ideal location for an early morning walk. Often, I listen to music and often I am inspired by ideas along the way. On recently hearing the Randy Travis song, Three Wooden Crosses, I had to write a seasonal column based on its message.

The first time I heard Three Wooden Crosses was at a Randy Travis concert just a few short years ago. The lyrics captivated me and it’s become a favorite song of mine ever since. Country music often tells stories that have heartwarming messages. I’m a sap for that stuff and I love it. And, the holiday season just magnifies those emotions for most of us.

Let’s take a look at the first words of this song, which begin telling the story:

A farmer and a teacher, a hooker and a preacher,
Ridin’ on a midnight bus bound for Mexico.
One’s headed for vacation, one for higher education,
An’ two of them were searchin’ for lost souls.
That driver never ever saw the stop sign.
An’ eighteen-wheelers can’t stop on a dime.

In a few short lines, we are on high alert that a tragedy is coming. We’ve met the characters and we’re hooked. Who will die? Who will survive? What lesson will we be told?

There are three wooden crosses on the right side of the highway,
Why there’s not four of them, Heaven only knows.
I guess it’s not what you take when you leave this world behind you, it’s what you leave behind you when you go.

Ah! One person survives. Who is it? We don’t know yet. But, the chorus has revealed the heart of this song’s message and the part that GOT me, “it’s not what you take when you leave this world behind you, it’s what you leave behind you when you go.”

Those of you that follow the A Dad’s Point-of-View Facebook Page know that every Sunday is #FaithSunday in which I ask the same question, “What are you doing to repair the world?” I then share a link to something that I hope is inspiring.

That expression about repairing the world comes from the biblical expression, “Tikkun Olam,” which literally means to repair the world and is expressed in the Bible as an obligation of our lives. When I began my second career as a writer, my first goal was to make a difference (in the lives of parents). So, this song and its message resonate very strongly with me.

No one on their deathbed wishes they’d worked more! No one on their deathbed wishes they’d had more possessions. No one on their deathbed wishes they’d had more fun. Mostly, we wish we’d spent more time with and touched our loved ones. And, mostly we hoped that our lives had some value and that the world was a better place for our having been here.

The song continues,

That farmer left a harvest, a home and eighty acres,
The faith an’ love for growin’ things in his young son’s heart.
An’ that teacher left her wisdom in the minds of lots of children:
Did her best to give ’em all a better start.
An’ that preacher whispered: “Can’t you see the Promised Land?”
As he laid his bloodstained bible in that hooker’s hand.

Again, the song reels us in and we think that the hooker has died holding the preacher’s Bible. But, like every good country song, there’s a surprise a-comin’.

That’s the story that our preacher told last Sunday.
As he held that bloodstained bible up,
For all of us to see.
He said: “Bless the farmer, and the teacher, an’ the preacher”
“Who gave this Bible to my mamma,
“Who read it to me.”

The first time that I heard this last part of the song, I was completely suckered in. I loved it. I had to immediately get the song and hear the story again. Again, that last line of the chorus struck me to the core:

I guess it’s not what you take when you leave this world behind you; it’s what you leave behind you when you go.

As we head into the mania of the holiday season, I ask you to reflect a little less on the shopping and cheer, and a bit more on what your life purpose is. What impact do you want to leave the world? Is that promotion more important than attending your kid’s soccer games? If you miss that business convention to attend your daughter’s recital, will you miss anything of lasting importance? Have you helped someone in need or bought the newest iPhone?

What are you doing to Repair the World?



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