The girls and I have been reading Journeys of Faithfulness by Sarah Clarkson the last few days. I reviewed this book in 2012 before my daughters were really at an age to appreciate the meaning of the stories. Looking back, I don’t think I was truly prepared for these stories either. It’s refreshing to read with a new set of eyes.
The story of Mary and Martha is quite simple in the Bible. There’s a lot of what isn’t said that leaves room for the imagination. And imagination is what Sarah has used with this book. She’s invites the reader to imagine the lives of Mary and Martha. To feel their struggles, pain, joys, hopes, sorrows … their interactions with Jesus. She’s an AMAZING storyteller and she has our attention.
I’ve found myself struggling to finish words. To not stop and tear up. I can FEEL the way the words are alive. She describes the actions of someone I love so intimately. It may only be her imagination, but she’s written what I KNOW to be true.
This morning we began reading the Lazarus story. I asked the girls what they remembered about Mary and Martha from the previous chapter. Gabby said, “Martha is bold. Mary is loving.” I asked her to explain her answer. She related a story of Mary being called by Martha to come help. As she was returning to the house Mary saw her elderly neighbor Anna and smiled. Anna needed her help. Mary chose to help, even though it earned her the wrath of her sister. I smiled, because that story touched me also. I had a hard time not crying. The story made me realize: to SEE someone is to love them.
As we began reading about the death of Lazarus I was cautious. Gabby is still dealing with the grief of losing her beloved horse and Bella misses our Govy four years later. I was prepared for questions or tears. I wasn’t prepared for Calvin to make an appearance and make us laugh. Just as I was reading the triumphant resurrection of Lazarus, he chimes in. “It’s a zombie. Zombie’s aren’t good.” We were giggling. I looked at him. Seriously? “Well, you just need to be careful with dead people.” Some days, I wonder who exactly parents this kid…
The story ended anti-climatic because of the zombie thing. But a spark was lit inside my soul. I know this story as intimately as I know my own.
Martha was angry with Jesus. He should have been there. He should have saved her brother from dying. She was angry and she was going to let him have it…let him feel the entire depth of her anger and her pain. She spits out her accusation “If you had been here, my brother would not have died.”
I LOVE what Sarah writes:
Her own heart betrayed her and spoke the truth she could not bear to behold.
He could have saved Lazarus, could have healed her brother. Jesus chose not to, and this was the deep, garish hurt.
I’ve been there. I’ve been at that moment when I KNOW that he could have saved me, protected me, stopped the abuse and I KNOW he chose to not intervene. It broke my heart and made me angry. But like Martha, I couldn’t stay in my anger and bitterness because I know, he is good. I am as sure of that as I am being alive.
Martha, the self-assured and strong, was finally humbled. None would join her she knew, in this brown kneeling valley of loss. None would plead with her or wait with her. None would stoop to grieve beside her. None but one. “Martha”. Her eyes flicked up, and she was astonished. Jesus was there. The Son of God knelt next to her in the dirt in front of all these witnesses. JESUS sat with her in the echoing valley of her barren, stripped-down soul.
This paragraph was hard to read without crying. Because THIS is the Jesus I know and love. Yes, Jesus didn’t stop the pain from coming. But he didn’t leave Martha in her pain alone. He knelt down beside her. In the dirt. Right where she was at.
The reason I know he’s real and I know who he is, because HE was with me in my darkest hours of grief. I found the one who doesn’t sit up in heaven, granting wishes like a genie or pouring down wrath like a crazy dictator. I found the one who sits besides me in the dark. As I cry from the pain of a broken heart. As I curse the name of my father and his father and any other person I can curse. As I ask him where and why and how, he stays right there. He is not afraid of my pain or my anger. He is not afraid of the deep and ugly scars or the sin that separates me from the Father. He sees me. He stays with me. He loves me. He is as real to me as the husband is.
The story ends with the triumphant resurrection of Lazarus and the ‘glory of God’ is displayed for his people to see. One could say that Abba causes bad things so he can get all the glory. Really, that’s just bunk. We live in a world of good and evil. We live in a world where we have the choice to walk in righteousness or walk in unrighteousness. We have the choice to live fully alive or be the walking dead. It’s our choice. Always has been and always will be.
Abba is a God of love. He is a God of second chances. He is a God of being with those he loves. For some reason he loves us, even if we don’t love him. He sent us the one he loved … to love us. The Jesus who walked the dirt roads of Israel and was not ashamed to get in the dirt with women like Martha, Mary, the woman caught in adultery. He loved the sinner, the leper, the ones that society said were not acceptable. He loved them, right where they were.
The beauty of the Lazarus story is not that he rose from the dead. It’s that he LIVED again. I don’t for one second believe that Lazarus lived the way he lived before. I believe he lived, REALLY lived.
I was not physically dead. I was emotionally and spiritually dead. Jesus came to the darkness, sat beside me, looked me in the eyes and said, “You can live.” I LIVE today, resurrected from death into life. From the darkness into light. FULLY alive, living and loving.
May I always remember the day my soul was rescued from the grave.
I am linking up with Grace & Truth this week!