Shiny, life-filled eyes sparkled at me from the hospital bed, where my grandma lay a week and a half before she died. From her wrinkled-filled face, she opened her mouth and sang in an off-key voice,
“He’s still working on me, to make me what He wants to be.”
The choice of song took me by complete surprise, how could He still have things to work on in you, at this age, my grandma, of course, being nothing less than perfect and precious in my eyes. Yet the words of this song weren’t breathed out in despair over an imperfect spirit nor from a guilt-driven desire to be perfect. Instead, they were words filled with a history of a real life lived out in love with her Creator and a desire for life to continue; to continue knowing Him and the adventure of His kingdom. This scene is one of the last treasured memories that I have with my grandma. Even over 9 years later, this holy moment brings me to tears; that is who I want to be at the end of this life – so in love with my Creator that I don’t want Him to stop working on me, creating me to be what He wants me to be.
Last week at church we covered the story of Lazarus being risen from the grave. Our pastor truthfully spoke,
“Without the resurrection we are all just playing at religion.”
My mind often returns to another scene: being the second to last person standing at my niece’s graveside. My heart waiting, as the sunshine cracked through the rainy clouds, hoping that these rays would bring healing; wanting so badly for this scene of the resurrection and the life to be reality now. My heart still waits...
John 11: 33, 35, 38
“When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled.”
“Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb.”
Darkness filled my heart again this week. Sometimes, I look at myself in shock, “Who are you and why do you act this way?” I have a temper and when I feel it bubbling up inside I often feel swept away on a rushing wave of emotion that I can’t control. There is a separation between how I want to act and the way that I actually act. Frustration that in the light I can sing praises with my whole heart about the love of God and truly mean it but then come these moments of darkness and I wonder and doubt who I truly am.
As I wrestled through this, this week, I felt a few questions challenge me:
“Can you praise me in the darkness?”
“Can you believe that I am there with you in the darkness?”
“Can you believe that even the darkness doesn’t separate you from my love?”
The raising of Lazarus from the dead is an awe-inspiring story but if that was all there was, it wouldn’t be enough. Yes, it touches on the power of God it shows He cares but within the story there is still a gap - between us and God. However, the story doesn’t stop there, instead what follows is a very dark week. A week where God, in human flesh, takes his compassion and His love and from that place directs the pain upon Himself. He walks into the darkness, fully and completely. He shows us through His life and example, that yes indeed God can and does know what it means to walk in the darkness and yes, even His love enters there. He doesn’t skip over the darkness, He doesn’t pretend it isn’t hard or heart-wrenching, He doesn’t pretend it is easy.
He lives it,
He breathes it,
He feels it,
He aches it,
He bleeds it.
I am glad that the Church walks us through Holy Week. It asks us to remember the darkness, to feel the despair, to remember that Christ took on our darkness. Why does this matter? Because darkness still exists in the outside world, in my life and ultimately in my own heart. To have to hold that darkness by myself – apart from Christ – it is too much for me. But to hold it with Christ, to walk with Him through it that is what I need. I know that Easter is coming, but this year I don’t want to rush there. I don’t want to miss out knowing Christ in the darkness, weeping with Him over real life lost, crying over pains that humanity has caused, recognizing that He lives, walks and breathes with us through real life. He’s not just there in the celebratory moments, He is also there in the darkness.
Psalm 139:10-11, 17-18
If I say, "Surely the darkness will cover me and the light around me turn to night,
Even darkness is no darkness with you;
the night is as clear as the day;
darkness and light to you are both alike."
"How deep are your counsels to me, O God! How great is the sum of them!
If I count them, they are more in number than the sand,
and at the end,
I am still in your presence."