Well, today is Sunday and I went to church. It is also Lent in in the faith I practice. Lent always has a way with me…I should say, it has its way with me. It forces me to look toward renewal. Today is no different. This is a post from three years ago – our church calender has three cycles, so I hear this reading every third year. I wrote it originally for a youth ministry blog.
Today, I heard the reading of Lazarus again. Again, it has touched me in a new way. Today although I feel less bound by my grief, more able to wriggle around in grief’s bindings but I was sad when I heard it. I remembered writing this piece. I remembered choosing it for the services for Dave. I remembered why it means so much to me. I am becoming unbound…but I still am not free of the grief that has been a part of me for six years. I still long for freedom. I still can’t believe my husband is dead. I am still grateful for the line in scripture that tells us that Jesus wept when he approached his friend’s grave.
Ok Lazarus, come on out!
Last Sunday in services, I heard a familiar story from scripture, the story about the man born blind. In this Lenten cycle, it reminded me that on the coming Sunday I would here another familiar story, the death and raising of Lazarus. So, I sat listening to the story of the man born blind, all I was hearing was Lazarus’ story. I love the scripture about Lazarus being raised from the dead. I have loved it for as long as I can remember. It has so much packed into it. I have also always loved the Lenten season. Since my husband’s death, I am not really fond of either. Something about the pure impact of the season when tragedy surrounds you…my life seems like Lent all the time now…I want to get off the cross! Some days I just want to scream, “ENOUGH ALREADY!”
Back to Lazarus, kind of…
At the funeral service for my husband, I chose the story of Lazarus for the main scripture reading. I love the reading remember…at that moment the story seemed to speak to how I was feeling. It spoke of “unbinding” to me. My husband, through his death, had been unbound. He had been set free of the cancer that had been holding him in its grip. He had been set free of pain, set free of fear of dying, set free of sadness of leaving us. He had been welcomed into the divine light of God’s kingdom…unbound of all earthly, bad stuff. I wanted Lazarus’ story to be heard that day. The day we committed my husband to God in this new phase of his new journey I wanted to people to know that he had been set free.
Now last Sunday, as the story of the man born blind who was healed by Jesus is being read, my being filled with the dread that I would have to listen to the story of Lazarus on the coming Sunday. Dread! My husband had been set free, unbound, but in the wake of that I had been wrapped and bound with grief. My journey following his death has not been one of freedom. I have not been set free from the pain, the cancer that took him, or the fear that gripped me during his sickness. Mine has been a journey of facing all the things that do bind me, tangle me, and take me off my course of servitude and love of God and others. I want to scream at Jesus sometimes. I want to say to him as Lazarus’ sister Mary says in the gospel of John, “Lord, if you had been here my brother would not have died.” (John 11:32) I called for Jesus to help my husband, I prayed, everyone prayed, but he died. I want to argue with his decision to wait and not come sooner before my husband had died…like in the story of Lazarus…He waited days before going to see Lazarus. He even knew when he set on his way to see Lazarus that he was dead.
The main idea that has always drawn me to this scripture story was the fact that Jesus wept. (John 11:34-37) I’ve always been moved that we have this loving Lord that weeps when we tragedy strikes us. I wonder if my Lord weeps with my pain. I wonder if he wept when my husband died. Such pain in my life, does have equal pain in our Lord’s eternity?
From early in the story of Lazarus’ death, we hear Jesus say it is for God’s glory and that the Son of God be glorified. “This illness does not lead to death, rather it is for God’s glory, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it” (John 11:4) So, I am left to wonder if this is why my husband died? If he died for the glory of God, how is that being made real in my life here? Does it need to be made real here in my life or is the glory of God happening somewhere else because he died?
Well, Lazarus’ story ends well…Jesus goes to his tomb and tells him to get up…and he does. Jesus tells the women to “unbind” him and to “let him go”. (John 11:44) As I sit here dreading the re-hearing of Lazarus story, I wonder, did I unbind my husband? Did I let my husband go? What is my work here and will it glorify the Lord? As my heart breaks and my grief journey continues I continue to challenge myself about my role, my journey as a servant of God. How will the story of Lazarus touch me when I hear it this time? How will I take it into my being? How will I be unbound?