Sunday, April 16, 2017

When Easter Doesn't Come

It's Easter. Resurrection Day. 

But what happens when you are still waiting on the miracle?

For some of you, you will enter into this day with great anticipation, joy, hope, and peace. I am truly glad for you. I’ve been there, felt that, experienced the breathlessness of life anew. So, could you do something for me? Would you enjoy the day? Would you sing your hearts out? Shout an extra loud alleluia? Throw your head back in exhilarating laughter? Hide the eggs one more time? Celebrate with abandon? Will you do that - for your soul and for mine?

There are those of us who will not and can not wholly enter into Easter joy. There are those of us who will still be waiting for a miracle even after the women go to the tomb. There are those of us who, early on the third day, will be believing God, loving Him, and clinging to Him in raw trust, but Easter will not dawn for us.

For some of us, the empty tomb is simply the reminder that new life hasn’t taken hold in the reality in our circumstances. For some of us, we are still looking for the angel at the tomb. We are still desperate to hear Jesus speak our name in the garden. We know only the fear and uncertainty of the disciples because we are still living a Friday and our hearts are hurting and our souls are in pain.

I don’t mean to bore you with details or to play the martyr. I just want you to know that my pain is real. For so many different reasons, over many situations, I have cried more tears than I thought possible over the last year. I’ve become a pro at self-pep-talks so I can reel myself back in and put another foot in front of the other. Even still, after twelve months, there’s no definitive end in sight. I don’t have clarity, direction, or answers for the questions asked so often of us. Sometimes pain just needs to be experienced, not explained.

It's Easter, but I am still waiting for my resurrection. And I am reminded of one lesson I discover over and again on this journey…

Resurrection takes time.

I think about Lazarus’ death recorded in the tenth chapter of the gospel of John. How Mary and Martha sent word to Jesus that their brother, Jesus’ dear friend, was gravely ill. And Jesus’ response was to stay put, right where he was. Even when the disciples urged him to go quickly, he resisted. It was days before he began the journey to Bethany. By the time Jesus arrives, Lazarus is dead and buried. Jesus, it seems, is too late.

I identify greatly with both Mary and Martha in this story. Mary is so distraught that even at the mention of Jesus’ arrival, she remains in the house grieving. Martha, on the other hand, meets Jesus on the road and tells him that if he had been on time, Lazarus would have lived. She knew Jesus could heal, and that's why she sent for him. But now? What good is healing sickness after someone is dead? She had yet to see the length, breadth, and depth of Jesus' healing.

There have been so many moments during this season of life that I’ve been like Mary. I know Jesus is near, but I am paralyzed in my pain. At any given moment, you might find me standing stock-still in the middle of a room, eyes closed, and tears running down my cheeks, as I acknowledge to God once again that I trust Him. These are quiet, but hard fought, moments of surrender.

Then there are the moments I channel Martha, and in the middle of the frenzy, I march right up to Jesus and give him a piece of my mind. I shout. I stomp my feet. I stiff-arm him. I put my hands on my hips and inform Jesus that if he had just held up his end of the bargain, life would be a whole lot better right now. That I would have a story to tell of his goodness. If he had just come when I had called…the first time. And these are the moments I am humbled because God is teaching me something. 

God’s ways aren’t my ways and one day, I will be glad of that truth.

Jesus’ delay in coming to his friend’s aid could have been perceived as cruel, but Jesus knew something the crowd didn’t. Lazarus’ healed sickness would indeed have shown the power of God over disease, but God wanted more for us then just a cure for illness. Lazarus’ once-dead, now-resurrected body would demonstrate the full power God had over disease and death. 

God is the god of life. All life, even where death reigned. God wants life for you and for me, and He has the power to bring it to pass. Had Jesus dropped everything and come running when Martha wanted, we would have been given the good gift of seeing sickness healed, but we would have missed the best gift of knowing the God holds the power of life in His hands. All life, even where death reigned.

Jesus wants to give us the best, not just the good.

Jesus wasn’t late. He was right on time, and therefore those at the tomb that day, and those of us who read the account millennia later, receive the best gift. No matter what Martha said. No matter how deep Mary’s grief. No matter what the perception of the disciples, the judgment of the crowd, the whispers of the people. The delay was necessary. The wait was essential. 

Resurrection takes time.

So, it’s Easter. Resurrection day, according to the church calendar, but I am still in the waiting. Today, I will still identify with the disciples on Saturday. I will still identity with Martha and Mary at their brother’s deathbed. I’m still wondering what Jesus is up to as he takes his time getting to my struggle.

Last weekend, we moved into our temporary housing arrangement until we figure out the next step. Until God shows up and breathes life into us again. And I have placed this plaque above the kitchen sink.

This is one thing I know to be true. God is faithful. 
Even though it is still Friday in my heart, God is faithful. 
Even though I am still crying at the tomb, God is faithful.
Even though my stone hasn’t been rolled away yet, God is faithful.

And in time, my Easter will dawn. Jesus is on his way, and with him, he’s bringing the best. It has just taken longer than I ever anticipated. It’s just required more than I ever imagined. It’s just demanded more trust than I was expecting to exercise. But then again, this Easter I am learning that

Resurrection takes time.

1 comment:

  1. Amen. Know that there are some of us who completely get what you're going through right now. We still don't have clear direction and we're still waiting for that miracle. And we've been out of traditional church ministry for over 7 years now!

    We have a hard time getting excited about Easter ourselves. In fact, this year, we didn't do the ritualistic things we normally do as a family. But we enjoyed each other. We spent all day Saturday and Sunday together as a family. That's where I have learned to find my strength the past several years...through Joy, Grace and Eli.

    Thank you so much for writing this and sharing your heart. We're praying for all of you!