One of my favorite podcasts is called The Practice from Willow Creek Community Church. It blends contemplative prayer with Scriptural teachings, and encourages listeners to imagine themselves in various parables and stories.
A couple days ago I listened to an episode called Living the Liturgy: Scripture. After describing what the Bible is and how to see Scripture as a stained glass window (not a rigid rulebook that must be legalistically obeyed), the leader walked us through the mourning and miracle scene in John 11:17-44. “Lazarus, come out!”
In the story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead, both Martha and Mary said, “Lord, if only you had been here, my brother would not have died.”
The leader invited us to ask Jesus the same question: “God, if you had been there, ______________ would not have died.”
We were given time and space to sit with that question. God, if you had been there, what would not have died, or ended, or been lost, or been stolen?
Who has died in your life? What has died in you?
Here’s what came to me: “God, if you had been there, I would not have died.” I was thinking of little Laurie, my true self, the sparkly sprite God created me to be. The self I was before I got hurt by people who had been hurt by other people.
My true self died while I was growing up with a mother suffering from schizophrenia, feeling the shame of being illegitimate and fatherless, and moving to different foster homes. My true self died while I battled self-hatred, insecurity, and inferiority. And I participated in her death. I had to let her die — or at least hide her so well that even I didn’t know where she was. I couldn’t let her get hurt worse than she already was. I abandoned my true self.
When Jesus cried, “Lazarus, come out!” I heard my name. “Laurie, come out!”
And I did. I rose stiffly, feeling the burial clothes and spices holding me down. I got to my feet and shuffled over to the door of the tomb. I could see sunlight, people standing around, peering into the darkness of the cave. They couldn’t see me, but I could see them.
I got scared. What if they rejected me because I was disgusting, decomposing, stinky and maybe even contagious? I’d been dead for so long! Jews don’t touch dead bodies.
But then I saw him. Jesus was there, front and center. He’d been there the whole time. Our eyes met, and he smiled softly. His eyes were brown, soft, warm. But a little red, too. His eyelashes were wet and stuck together.
Jesus wept when I died.
And Jesus weeps for the deaths in your life, too.
Imagine Yourself Rising – Refreshed and Renewed
You wouldn’t believe what happened when I stepped out of the tomb! They all swarmed around me, shouting and crying and rejoicing and asking questions. Martha reached out for me first, hugging me, digging me out of the burial clothes and head covering. She was wiping my face with her linens, calling out for water and soap. Mary was crying so hard she couldn’t talk, and had to lean on Jesus for support.
Later I was told that some people ran away when I came out of the tomb. They couldn’t believe that someone could come alive after being dead and buried for so long. They refused to see the light of me, my true self, coming out of the darkness.
I understood; it was weird and even hard for me, too! My true self — my bright saucy sparkly joyful little Laurie — had been gone for a long time. She’s still learning how to be free, to live in this world without fear. It’ll take a lifetime.
What might happen if you slowly, contemplatively walked through the story of Jesus and Lazarus? Listen to Living the Liturgy: Scripture. Your experience won’t be the same as mine. You may not experience anything at all! But you might find unexpected stirrings of life or a fresh perspective of the Bible.
Maybe you’ll even find yourself rising, renewed and revived, in ways you can’t even imagine.
To learn more about contemplative prayer, read What is Lectio Divina? Meeting God in Scripture.
Echoes From Before
- Traveling in Faith – Echoes of Transformation
- How Are You Without Your Thoughts? Echoes of Freedom
- Your Happiness Depends On It ~ Echoes of Harmony
Traveling in Faith
What to Do When They Refuse to Let You Board the Flight – You’re at the airport — maybe even at the Kathmandu Airport in Nepal, like I was — and the airline staff at the check-in counter say you can’t board the plane. Maybe you’re even trying to fly to somewhere you’re scared-to-go-but-eager to see like Varanasi, India. What do you do when the airline staff doesn’t let you get on your flight? These five tips will help you cope.
12 Tips for Taking the “Tourist Bus” in Nepal – Traveling from Pokhara to Bandipur by tourist bus is a slow, inexpensive, non-touristy way to see the Tribhuvan Highway in Nepal. It’s also full of surprises! Just like every Buddhist stupa, temple, peace pagoda, monastery and Tibetan refuge camp I visited. Even the monkeys in Nepal were full of surprises.
10 Best Travel Journals for Solo and Group Trips – What’s the best type of travel journal? It depends if you’re a solo female traveler in Nepal, a newly-married couple on a honeymoon in Hawaii, or family celebrating a 50th birthday by camping in the Canadian Rockies. One thing is for sure: a travel journal is one of the best “bon voyage” gifts for solo excursions, family holidays, or group treks.