The Hallidays use the story of Lazarus having been in the grave and called out by Jesus to new life as a picture of the process to which God calls us. God invites us out of disordered eating, flesh machinery, and unworkable beliefs to abundant life. Lazarus, four days in the grave, is called by Jesus to step forth from the dead into life:
“Lazarus, come out!”
The dead man came out,
his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen,
and a cloth around his face.
Jesus said to them,
“Take off the grave clothes and let him go.”
So today I had a new realization of what the grave clothes even are. For some reason, the concept was vague for me before. So here are my thoughts on that and I hope it will make sense.
As with Lazarus, our grave clothes keep us bound. They may even hide the “stench” and “decay” of who we really are. In our case, this isn’t physical decay, but more of a “decay of spirit” from years of wounds inflicted (maybe even abuse) and from rubbing shoulders with others in this world who are sinful. Our grave clothes insulate us from the pain we feel when we have a close look at who we are and how we feel about things, people, life. Until now, when we have inadvertently gotten in touch with pain in our deepest places–that “silent hunger,”–we may have earnestly added another layer of wrappings to suppress it, to keep it quiet. We have relied on our own way of protecting ourselves. For some of us this has been through substance abuse, “numbing out” with online game playing, reading (even good Christian books!)–anything that might keep us from feeling or from dealing with real life.
But right now, Jesus calls to each of us:
The process to which we are called is to step out of “hiding” and then slowly, with respect, unwrap the grave clothes that we have relied on for so long–those unworkable beliefs, habitual ways of handling things, addictions…and as we set them aside a bit at a time, allow ourselves to *feel*. (This is best done in some form of community–with a close friend, godly Christian counselor, or small group with whom we can dare to be ourselves safely.)
We do this with fear and trepidation–it is true. But we don’t do it alone. With a godly, loving friend at our side and with the Lord Jesus’ hand in our own, we can go to him with what comes up in our spirit, in our soul–in the aching, empty part of our hearts.
Instead of crushing the cry with grave wrappings, we give it a voice, invite it to be heard, offer it to the Lover of our Souls…
Where before we quickly “bound it up,” kept it “under wraps,” stifled the feeling, now we dare to let ourselves see what is really there. (This connects with this blog entry. The two go hand in hand.)
We step into the light, free from the grave clothes that protected us from many things, but that also kept us from really being all God has intended. He intends that we experience the abundant life in Christ,including His peace and His joy–things that are diminished in our attempts to diminish the sensation of pain. We have to stop clinging to our own self-reliance, our own way of doing things.
Slowly, over time, as we peel away layer upon layer of the grave clothes, he shows us all the healing he intends for our hearts and how we have been relying on food in a superficial way to counterfeit what he wants to do truly from the inside out.
The unwrapping of the grave clothes happens one baby step choice at a time in the present moment. It is that choice now NOT to turn to another dish of ice cream. It is that decision now not to guzzle one more diet soda. It is that willingness to refrain from “vegging out with a movie,” and, instead, to stay present to real life–now. It is being willing to be sleepless for a time, if need be, to forgo using the Tylenol PMs at night because of using caffeine too much during the day…it is being willing to experience life, now…, Even without caffeine by day and without sleep aids by night! To feel…now…whatever that may mean.
I have to trust that God will take me through this. That is the hard part. I mean, Jesus let Lazarus die when he could have prevented that. There was a greater glory in store. Can you imagine Lazarus ever doubted the Lordship of Christ after that experience? He may have known Jesus as a pretty amazing man before hand–maybe even thought he was from God, but after being sick, suffering, dying and being in the grave four days, only to be called out…I think he may have thought the suffering was worth what he learned through it. Jesus is God…he can do anything!
I have to trust the same is true with me.