Dead Man Walking

Then they took away the stone from the place where the dead was laid. And Jesus lifted up his eyes, and said, Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me. And I knew that thou hearest me always: but because of the people which stand by I said it, that they may believe that thou hast sent me. And when he thus had spoken, he cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth. And he that was dead came forth, bound hand and foot with graveclothes: and his face was bound about with a napkin. Jesus saith unto them, Loose him, and let him go.

"Why do you think that when Jesus rose Lazarus from the dead, he had him come out in his grave clothes?" A wise man of God asked me a question last week that I had never considered. Why didn't he leave his graveclothes neatly folded inside the tomb as Jesus did? Why didn't he emerge in a shining white robe?

The four days Lazarus's body spent in that grave had surely caused quite a bit of decay. The intense heat combined with the lack of embalming would have rotted the flesh quite quickly. Surely there were parasites already doing their work inside that tomb. The sight and smell of those graveclothes had to be absolutely revolting. If Jesus had the power to completely resurrect and renew Lazarus' body, why wouldn't he have taken care of the putrid, worm-ridden graveclothes as well?

What must have the onlookers thought as Jesus commanded them to "Loose him"? I wasn't there, but I'm pretty sure some of them thought, "No way! I'm not touching that!" I'd probably have been one of them. Maybe others thought, "Um, sure, Jesus, but let me see if I have any hand sanitizer on me...or better yet, anybody bring Lysol?"

But there were a few special people there who flew to their friend, threw their arms around his neck, and cried with joy. Their disgust for the graveclothes was completely overshadowed by their love for Lazarus and their amazement for what the Lord had done.

Over the past few weeks, I've been grateful to have many such grace-filled people in my own life. When your family goes through a difficult time, especially if your family is in ministry, you fear what personal failure will do. It's not going to be pretty. Even though the Lord has been working in our hearts in miraculous ways, the effects of sin are still there. The hurt is real. The shame is crippling. I can't help but wonder, Who can stomach this?

Since this journey began, I've watched in utter amazement as my precious grace-filled brothers and sisters have looked past the graveclothes. They've run to us, embraced us, loved us. I look into their eyes, searching for revulsion, but it's not there. The Lord somehow allowed them to see past the ugliness to witness what the Lord can do--resurrect, revive, renew.

Too many times, we hurry the "failures" into closets. "This is so embarrassing!" And it's true--there is no doubt that sin brings shame and painful consequences. But when we do that, we miss the best part. Thank the Lord, when we cry out to Him in repentance, He can bring beauty out of the ugliness. He can make all things new. He can restore. I want to be part of that. I want to witness the miracle. I'm praying every day, "Lord, give me grace." And He is.

Now our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God, even our Father, which hath loved us, and hath given us everlasting consolation and good hope through grace, comfort your hearts, and stablish you in every good word and work. -II Thessalonians 2:16-17

A New Chapter

Just one month ago, my life took a very unexpected turn. In just one afternoon, everything came crashing down, and it became very clear that life would never be the same. My family was facing great hardship; it became very clear that we should not go through this battle alone. After some difficult phone calls and much counsel, we returned to the States for an indefinite amount of time in order to resolve these issues.

These have been painful days. I am in the fight of my life, in areas I never dreamed would change. Everything that I thought was sure and stable: my walk with the Lord, my marriage, the ministry, life in Honduras, homeschooling my daughter, is tossing about in a sea of uncertainty. Just when I catch my breath, thinking I'm over the wave, another hits.

Areas of my life that were once private are now exposed, and I am raw. I am asking questions I've never imagined uttering. I'm struggling with sins I didn't know I had.

But He's holding my hand through it all. I can feel His firm grip, and I know that no matter how much I'm shaken, I'm in His hands and He's not letting go.

I'm not sure where this road is leading. I'd like to share one of my journal entries from this past week:

This is not the Story I wanted to write. My Story told of foreign lands and incredible adventures. It described culture shock, dangerous situations, and soul-stirring missions at its best. My Story was going to be a best-seller.

I never saw it coming. In just a few moments, everything swirled and spun upside down. I gasped for breath, but didn’t want that breath to come. It hurt too badly.

What did come was the Death of my Story. There was no more beauty to write. New Story was ugly, filthy, and black. It was horror. It was something that happened to other people, never to me. I squeezed my eyes shut, clench my knees to my stomach, and waited to wake up to Old Story. But it wasn’t there. Old Story was no more. Everything about Old Story was a lie. I couldn’t write about it, because I couldn’t believe it anymore. The stench of New Story pervaded everything. New Story was my reality now.

This is not the Story I chose. But it’s the Story my Father gave me. He ripped up Old Story and handed me the pen. Start over. Write New Story.

I don’t like this Story. Nothing about it is familiar. Nothing about it is beautiful.

“Just wait,” He whispers. “You don’t know how it ends.”

As I began my New Story, the Lord spoke to me through the words of a song I had sung/played with Pilo Tejeda (a man in our church in Honduras) just a few weeks before life changed forever. I listened in awe to my own words that now held new meaning for me.

Purify my heart,
Let me be as gold and precious silver.
Purify my heart,
Let me be as gold, pure gold.

Refiner's fire,
my heart's one desire
Is to be…holy;
Set apart for You, Lord.
I choose to be…holy;
Set apart for You, my Master,
Ready to do Your will.

Pray for me as I'm in the Refiner's Fire...I want to come forth as gold! I know I can't do it in my own strength; but He's holding my hand every step of the way.
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