Thursday, April 2, 2015

Spring will come, even if there seems to be a crushing silence

I love spring time. I feel the hope of sunshine, new beginnings, shedding the winter coat, enjoying the longer days, the relaxing evenings at baseball games, and the promise of summer fun. I'm thankful for all of that, because Spring can also be hard because it holds my mom's birthday and a few other "anniversaries" that remind me of heartache and some seemingly crucial failures in life.

Today, on this Good Friday, my mom would have been 65...which is crazy to think. Where has time gone? Sometimes I get stuck thinking I'm still that little girl, whose grandmother is 65, and I have my whole life ahead of me.

But then, I look in the mirror or see pictures of myself and I am quickly reminded that life has moved on; I'm no longer that youngster and much of my life has passed by.

Visions of all I'd do in my thirties have yet to come to fruition, and my thirties are quickly exiting.

Last night at small group as we were discussing a new book we are going to read with our families, 3 questions were posed:
If only ________________________ I'd be happy.
If only ________________________ I'd be respected.
If only ________________________ I'd feel loved.

I could fill those blanks in with a number of things: If only I could travel more, go to law school, was thinner, didn't own a TV, read all the time, spoke a couple languages, was financially secure, and on, and on, and on.

It's basically a list of how I view myself falling short.

It's a list of how I see my significance manifesting in a world surrounded by people...because that's what I respect, love, and view as happiness.

It kind of reminds me of that verse, "how you judge, you also will be judged."

I wonder if we sentence our own selves to the death of guilt and shame by how we give and see significance among others.

I certainly hang from the noose of my own deep seeded pronouncements on humanity...I end up hanging from the rope I intended for others.

But, the one...the very one that could answer all 3 of those questions for me, the one that regularly haunts me and I can't seem to run fast enough from, suppress, ignore, and deny is my desire to be loved by someone here on earth.

I hate typing that and admitting it, and truly the only reason I even can is because from a computer there is anonymity, and I think no one really reads this thing anyways.

What's ironic is that when we steps back and look at our lists, we know none of that will REALLY make us happy or bring us respect or make us feel loved...or if it does, it's temporary, and will cause an equal amount of conflict.

But, even still, we chase, we dream, we wish, we hope for the day when something changes, a door opens, and an emptiness that we feel, will start getting filled.

I can't explain my loneliness.

I can't explain why it hurts amongst a life that I love and is extremely fulfilling and fun and simple and at times even magical.

My friends, my job, my son, my freedom, my health, my opportunity...all of it is awesome, and I wouldn't trade any of it in, because all of it makes my life full and rich and fun.

But, periodically, and by periodically, I mean fairly regularly, as I drive alone, go home alone, walk into church alone, go to dinner alone, shop alone, travel alone, I wish there was someone with me.

But, I don't want just anyone with me, I desire a best friend, someone who I find super special and who finds me the same way.

My deep down, deep seeded desire is to be special to someone.

This month reminds me of how my mom is gone, and that I'm alone. March 4th is the day my divorce was finalized. And even though it was an end that was necessary and one that marked a death occurring years before, it still brings up sentiments of failure, of how I missed the boat, of my loss of time and missing out on one of the hardest but most beautiful pieces in life.

I see it as a failure bigger than God's redemption...or one that maybe doesn't really deserve His redemption. A screw up that deserves years of consequence and a forever sentence of loneliness.

One's mind is powerful. Things we tell ourselves wouldn't even be in the ballpark of what we'd tell others or even believe for them.

But, what I tell myself is harsh, worst case scenario, and isn't true.

One of the many things I love about my job is that I get to teach Bible. In 5th grade, we go through the Gospels, and come springtime, my favorite chapter in the entire Bible comes back around.

It's the story of how Jesus raised Lazarus from the Dead...but it's SO much more than that.

Just when March is kicking in, and I find myself in that hole of discouragement and I'm fighting through the frustration of feeling sad or down or blah, John 11 gets opened once again.

John 11 is the picture of grief, of trusting God, of waiting on Jesus, of heartache, and of Him being there in all of it.

The story is of 2 women, Mary and Martha, who are called friends of Jesus. The Bible includes other stories of them, so they truly have a relationship with Jesus, an intimate, real, and tangible friendship with Him.

Their brother Lazarus becomes sick. They send word to their friend, to the man they know is the Son of God; their Jesus who loves them and their brother.

But what comes back to them is heartbreaking.

It's silence.

They hear nothing. Just, silence.

Being someone who has felt that silence, it's gut wrenching to read that and go back there in my own feel the emptiness of silence.

If someone wants to hurt me to my very core and break my heart, then just be silent. Don't explain, don't answer, don't come, just let there be silence.

 Mary and Martha waited days for Jesus to show up, and He didn't.

Can you imagine the confusion and hurt?

Jesus, our friend, healer, Savior, Lord, the one who loves us not coming.

Their brother dies. They bury him. They weep and grieve the loss of him.

But I think they grieve even more because of the seeming silence of Jesus in their heartache.

One of my students asked me the other day why we don't get to experience Him in person like those of the Bible do. Why is the "Bible back then" and not now?

I won't rabbit trail off on all that I answered, but part of my answer included the grace of having the Bible in our hands, for us to read, to see the stories playing out and seeing much of God's perspective on the events and not just living them out ourselves. Oh what GRACE is involved in that.

Mary and Martha lived it, but we get to read both their part and Jesus' part. We get to see the Narrator and the narrated.

We get to read that Jesus received the message of Lazarus' illness, and we get to see that He had a plan, "This sickness is not to end in death, but for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified in it."

But we also see, "He then stayed two days longer."

There was no telegram, text message, or phone call.

They sent word, and He sent silence back.

The crushing blow of that would have been devastating.

Today, in our lives, it can be devastating.

But, the story continues and we get to see it play out in the lives of Martha and Mary, which gives us hope in our own.

After He declares to His disciples that Lazarus is dead, Jesus says, "Let's go to Him."

When Jesus arrived, Lazarus had been in the tomb four days. I'm not quite sure the exact timing, but it seems like at least a week has passed since word had been sent to Jesus about Lazarus' illness, and I would say it's safe to assume even more time than that had passed.

Mary and Martha had spent quite some time in silence without hearing from Jesus.

When word came that Jesus was approaching, Martha quickly got up and went to Him, but Mary stayed back.

I would have been Mary. I would have stayed back.

I don't know if it was out of hurt or anger or confusion or why she stayed back...but that's where I would have been. In life, when I'm hurt, I go get in my hole, I pull back, I can't face the person, and even with Jesus, if I'm hurt or sad or lonely, sometimes I feel so guilty of my lack in gratitude or contentment that I just can't face Him. I can't walk to Him while feeling silenced, forgotten, or ashamed of having felt those ways.

With grief, it can be the same way. Confusion, anger, loneliness, heartache, and the feeling of rejection can keep us from going to Jesus.

There have been times in my life that I just couldn't say another word to Him, I'd curl up and cry with my heart aching for Him and His assurance, but I couldn't go to Him. I remember falling asleep a number of nights with my Bible under my hand like it was a blanket or a teddy bear, but I couldn't open it, I couldn't face the explosion of hurt and what I thought He might be telling me in the silence of the pain.

Martha though, she goes, and runs to Him. She blurts out her pain, "Lord, if you would have been here, my brother would not have died."

She couldn't hold it back. The blame, the hurt, the grief came spilling out onto Jesus. He takes it in and has a conversation with her, assuring her that her brother would rise again, telling her that HE is the resurrection and the life and whoever believes in Him will never die.

Martha quickly runs back to her sister and lets her know that Jesus is calling for her.

Once Mary hears Jesus is calling for her, she hurriedly goes to Him. Once her name is called by Him, she runs, falls at His feet weeping, and cries out, "Lord, if You had been here..."

"When Jesus saw her weeping, He was deeply moved in spirit and was troubled."

"Jesus wept."

Jesus had a plan. There was a plan from the beginning with Lazarus, for the glory of God to be shown.

And the plan was going to require patience, death, grief, yet it was all wrapped in deep love, a deep love for family, for friends, and from Jesus.

And this is why John 11 is my favorite is a picture of life.

In life, we are often times faced with a great need for Jesus and some of the times we are faced with a seeming silence from Him. We pray, we seek, we beg, but no answer seems to come.

Our friend, our Savior, our Lord may not come with an immediate answer and we must sit and wait. We might even have to walk through pain and death.

But, one of the overwhelming things I learn from John chapter 11 is I can run to Jesus, and even if I can't bring myself to run to Him, He's going to come and call for me.

I can run to Him, fall at His feet, and release all that my heart feels, even if it's blame: If You would have been here Lord!

And the second, and the most beautiful part: He is here...even in the silence. He's here.

Jesus didn't have to come to heal Lazarus. He could've done it from afar.

Jesus' plan included other roads, other ways, and other reasons.

His timing was part of the plan, but even in that, Jesus didn't expect Mary and Martha to be rockstar believers and never be shaken by the pain and grief of losing their brother. Their blame didn't throw Him, annoy Him, or change Him.

Their pain and their weeping upset Him and greatly moved Him, and He too wept with them.

He came and He wept with them, and then He miraculously brought Lazarus back to life.

I miss my mom. I miss there being a person on this earth who thinks I'm very special. I miss being able to call someone any time of the day or night and who would sit and listen, whose shoulder is ever ready, whose prayers always include me, and who reminds me that God has great plans for me...that loneliness will wane and a new dawn will arrive. To remind me that God's grace is bigger than my mistakes, and to not listen to everything my mind tells me.

John 11 reminds me that Jesus has a plan, it requires patience, but in all of that, He comes and He weeps with me in my grief.

He doesn't expect me to buck up and press on, but He calls me to love deeply and when that love faces death, the grief that follows is tough. It is heart breaking, and at times, one must weep.

Just fall at His feet and weep.

And then watch Him do the miraculous that will follow, because with Jesus, something miraculous and full of grace will follow.

With Jesus, death does not win or have the final say, life will always follow.

Spring does come.

This I recall to my mind, therefore I have hope.
22 The Lord’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, for His compassions never fail.
23 They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness.
24 “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “Therefore I have hope in Him.”
25 The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the person who seeks Him.
26 It is good that he waits silently for the salvation of the Lord. Lamentations 3:20-25

The pain, the tragedy, the horror, and the silence on Friday must have been crushing to Jesus's disciples, but in 3 days, GRACE erupted.

He had a plan, it required patience, death, grief, and a seeming silence in it all...but then, the miraculous, LIFE sprang forth.

Never doubt it my friend, spring will come, Grace will erupt.

This I know, that God is for you.


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