Thursday, May 1, 2014

Living Lazarus

Yesterday, I posed the question, "How many days in a row can you trust God?" (The answer for me is "Almost one." Check yesterday's post for more on that story.) But I have to admit that when I first started thinking about this, what I was really thinking about was Lazarus.

Lazarus was a friend of Jesus. A beloved friend. He was brother to Mary and Martha, whose narratives we seem to focus on quite a bit more. Even in the story of Lazarus, we're more often talking about the sister who trusted and the sister who pulled away and the way these two women responded to their friend, to their Lord, and then we add a little footnote about the man Jesus brought back to life.

But times like these have me thinking about Lazarus, about how much faith it took him every day to live the rest of his life.

I don't know what kind of consciousness a man has about death once it happens. I don't know if Lazarus knew he was dead. I don't know if that's a thought his flesh could have processed or if, by the moment of death, it's purely a spirit's understanding. I don't know if, returned to the flesh, he had any understanding of the grave clothes. It may have been one of those stories that other people had to tell him. "Dude! You were DEAD!" I'm not sure whether it would have been better if Lazarus had known or if he had only heard. My feeble brain cannot process such questions.

I've been in kind of this situation. No, I haven't been dead. I've been in places where God comes in and seems to change things so dramatically that it's hard to hold onto the answers for all the questions. Where I've had to step into every second profoundly aware of what God has done, and asking myself whether, right now, I can believe it. Not even necessarily whether I do believe it, but simply whether I can.

I think that's probably how Lazarus woke up for awhile. "Am I alive?" Am I alive today? But for how long? Does the power of Jesus wear off? I'm breathing. I think I'm breathing. Is that my heartbeat? Is this real? Has Jesus given me life or is this all a dream? And the questions go on and on. I think that for awhile, Lazarus woke up wondering if he could believe his life. Not if he did believe, but if he could.

If he could, that poses a whole new series of questions. Questions like how. How does a man who believes his life live? How does a man who believes the story of Jesus live? How does a man push aside the grave and remember that he's not dead any more? How does a man trust to take one step in a moment when life seems so fragile? 

These are our questions, too, in holy moments. I wish I had better answers to share, but I don't. It's a choice. It's a choice we have to make sometimes every second. And it's a heavy weight. I don't know about you, but there's only so much time I can ponder the thing God is doing in my life before it seems so big that I can't hardly fathom it, let alone (I think) believe. It's humbling and scary and beautiful and trying and crazy and unfathomable and incredible .... 

And as these things tend to go, one day you wake up and it just seems normal. There's a certain sadness in this because it means you've lost the freshness and the awe of what God is doing in your life. You sort of forget the thing that's drawing you forward, that's giving you some sense of meaning or purpose or even simply belovedness. And there's kind of this void.

But it doesn't take long before the void changes the question. No longer are you asking whether you can believe your life; that seems irrelevant right now. No longer are you thinking about life; you're thinking about death. I think there probably came a time when Lazarus grew so used to living again that he began to wonder if he'd ever really died. He began to think about what that was like, and those scary days of faith that followed, and how far he'd come now.

We don't like to think about such things. We think ourselves "above" all that. Like if Jesus came and brought us back to life, we'd never forget it! We'd live every day knowing what He'd done for us, and that would drive and define the rest of our lives. Let me ask you - how's it going in La-La Land? Because the truth is that we have all had these powerful moments of connectivity with God, when everything has changed in our entire lives and we swear we will always be different...and how different are you really today? It's a process. It's a back-and-forth. It's progress and pause. It's faith and frustration. It's holiness and hesitation. That's  what it is. Don't pretend you're above all that. We all know better.

The cool thing is that this moment of pause is precisely the moment that draws us back into praise. You can't think about how far you've come without considering how you got out of there. You can't remember your dark days without some glimpse of the thing that started to shine the light. I think every time Lazarus thought about his own death, he couldn't help but remember his life and those early days of such joy and trust and faith and belief. So even what seems like a dark moment has brought him back to the very freshness of God. 

I think the same is true for us. I don't think there is a man among us who doesn't realize how he got here when he thinks about how far he's come. Who doesn't remember that shining moment when all things were new and this hardly seemed real and he had to choose whether he could even believe. Who smiles, remembering that maybe he never chose to believe or chose not to believe but life just happened anyway amidst his doubts and questions, and that it has been blessed indeed. Who doesn't feel obligated to bind his faith to that holy moment or this seemingly hollow one but understands the process of the whole thing and embraces the freedom of now.

I've been thinking about Lazarus. Wondering what it must be like to wake up every day and have to decide if you can trust God for your life. Not if you do, but simply if you can. And then in a moment of irony, I realize, I am Lazarus.

We all are.

Forget for a minute whether you do or you don't. The question this morning is simply this: Can you trust God for your life? The rest stems from that singular answer.

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