GRAWN, Mich. — Attention comes with the territory for John Woodcox as he drags an 11-foot-tall cross in a small parking lot tucked along a busy road.
"I get some curious people looking when they drive by," he said.
Woodcox, 66, planned to attract a bit more attention this morning when he began a 2-mile trek dressed as Jesus, crown of thorns and all, with the cross on his shoulder.
The trip along U.S. 31 South near Traverse City, Michigan is a commemoration of Good Friday aimed at provoking thought about Jesus' crucifixion and the significance of Holy Week.
"I don't want to wear myself out before the day comes," he said before a recent practice session. "I'm twice his age, it's less than half the weight he carried, and I'm going twice the distance."
Woodcox paused to set his feet before letting out a grunt and shrug to hoist the life-sized cross to his shoulder and commence another training lap around the parking lot at Grawn United Methodist Church. Woodcox, a retired stainless steel craftsman, spent the past three weeks toting the giant cross in circles to build stamina to shoulder the 6-foot span for a hike.
It's not too heavy, about 30 pounds on the shoulder, he said.
A passing driver on a nearby road tapped her brakes and craned her neck to get a better view as Woodcox hit his stride across the west side of the asphalt square.
The idea for the Good Friday walk developed for Woodcox after his wife of 43 years, Verna, died in January. He leaned heavily on the small church for support after her death and looked for ways to give back.
"I just needed some growth somewhere," he said. "So many people say they believe in Christ, but do they actually practice it? Churches are dying all over. If just one person through seeing me decided to go to church on a regular basis ... it will be worth it."
He expected to make the trek alone, but church pastor Colleen Weirman said she would walk with him. And a flock of supporters have since pledged to join his journey.
"I was not planning in the beginning on having an entourage with me," he said.
Weirman said she supported the effort from the moment Woodcox mentioned his plan.
"I think God has been sustaining him all this time through his grieving," she said. "This is his way of saying 'Thank you.'"
His longest training walk so far is 1.5 miles, but Woodcox is confident he will complete the extra half mile with the help of a few prayers and the encouragement of friends who will walk beside him.
"I just pray that ... Friday is a little warmer," he said. "I'm not walking to my death like Jesus did."