I am pondering the story of Lazarus ( John 11), not the part where he dies and is subsequently raised, but wondering what if felt like to be released from his grave clothes to a new chance at life. Did he rejoice at his release, finding a new freedom, renewed health and a zest for life, or just maybe did he resent being woken and returned to his earthly family?
I guess that these are questions we don’t ask, perhaps we daren’t ask them, obviously we say he was as overjoyed as his family, and as astonished as his friends and other onlookers, he certainly became a topic for conversation, even curiosity, much as we see people rubber-necking at a motorway accident to ascertain what has gone on, was his life from that point on a side-show?
Perhaps he longed for the silence, and sleep of the tomb, the long wait for the ultimate resurrection, for this we know the earthly Lazarus died not once but twice. I write this as someone who had to persuade themselves to get up today, I did wake early-ish at 6:45am, came down stairs fed the cats, made tea and took it back to bed where I listened to the radio for a bit before reading my book and deciding that a snooze was in order, three snoozes later and it was 11:45am. At least I can say that I got up this morning, but the temptation to simply go back to sleep again, for just another hour, was overwhelming.
I also say this as a friend of someone who lives with such daily pain that he would like to go to sleep and not to wake up, he is not being flippant he means it! Other friends have an elderly relative who longs to be released from her earthly body, so much so that, that is her daily prayer, she is a good age and life holds nothing but frustration for her.
I also write this as one who has had the horrible task of telling the consultants that if my son were to go into cardiac arrest one more time that they should not revive him, there is only so much trauma one body can take. Enough to say that he didn’t, instead he pulled through, but my sobering reflection is that for a brief time it felt like all of the life had drained from me, and I would gladly have given it to him if that would help, maybe I did in a way, for in letting go life remained.
Back to Lazarus then, in the tomb, waking to the sound of the voice of Jesus calling his name, was it a shock, or was it something he simply could not help but respond to, I guess when the Lord of life calls you to life there is nothing to do but respond, and so he did, feeling his way out of the darkness still wrapped in grave-clothes with a cloth covering his face. Emerging like a mummy from his tomb the onlookers are instructed to unbind him, while Lazarus had taken the first steps he needed help, he probably also needed tenderness and care and time to come to terms with what had happened.
Yesterday I found myself sitting in my GP’s surgery, it was a follow-up appointment to see how I am getting on, normally I strive to be my most positive self, to show myself to be coping, to appear to be as strong as I can. Yesterday however I told the real and full truth, I am struggling and am not as strong as I might appear. We discussed some options and I left, still signed off, and relieved for being able to say things are not as they should be. I am being given time and care, and I reflect that I was using the bindings of grave clothes to keep me together and hold me until I could re-enter the tomb of my despair, I hadn’t been living well and certainly not in fullness, and that is no way to live.
A few weeks ago when I raised the flag, and said I was not coping it was in response to an inner conviction that enough was enough and that I wanted to be well and whole, from an onlookers perspective things may look worse for me, but they aren’t. It is not enough to walk through life held together with the graveclotes of despair and a mask of coping, I decided that I could not sustain that anymore and simply pulling myself together to get through certain tasks was unhelpful to me and everyone else concerned.
I sense that I am being unbound from my grave-clothes, mask off and sat at the kitchen table nervously sipping tea and hoping that people will receive me just as I am, battered and bruised and not a little wobbly, taking life one day and one step at a time, looking for fullness, longing for life, a life that comes from a laying down of the masks, dying to live.