Yesterday, one of our pastor's preached an outstanding message...on waiting. Yes, it was for me. Yes, God has my calling card. Yes, he is smarter than me. ;) Something stuck out to me, though, that I think was the point God wanted to make to me, specifically, that I haven't been able to get out of my head. The central scripture of the message was found in John, chapter eleven. It's the story of a dead man, wrapped in burial clothes, holed up in a cave.
His name was Lazarus.
The story is one I am very familiar with. How could I not be? This is the greatness of God on display! This is the power and might of our God at work! After four days of being dead, Jesus calls this man from his tomb and brings him back to life. Jesus didn't even lay hands on Lazarus. He calls him out of that cave and at the sound of his voice, the chain of death has to fall. We could stop right there and call this story good. We could walk away from that moment with faith in our God, and rejoicing in our souls.
There is more, though.
Lazarus came out of that tomb wrapped in the customary burial clothes. From head to toe, he was covered. We know this for a fact because Jesus instructs his sisters to unwrap him. (11:44) What a sight that would be. I can imagine there were some who screamed in terror, some who stood, jaw slacked, wide eyed and hopefully, some who shouted for joy. The fact is, Lazarus has been called out of his cave, back to life. The fact is, he smells like death. The fact is he is wrapped in burial clothes. The fact is, sometimes we come out of our caves, but those clothes are still wrapped tightly around us.
Jesus called me into life many years ago. I can't honestly tell you the exact day. I've known him all of my life. But, oh, I've walked around in burial clothes for many, many years. Life happened and I let those clothes find their way back around me. I never walked away from Jesus. I've never turned my back on him, but I spent many years, looking like a mummy. I couldn't function the right way, I couldn't see past the restraint of those clothes.
I was a living person, wrapped in death.
I wonder, how many of us are like that. Jesus calls us all out of our dark caves of death, and because he is just that powerful, the chain of death falls off, and we are free to come out. Still though, just as he told them to, "unwrap Lazarus," he tells us to let those clothes fall off. Sometimes, in my own life, I've picked up those strips of cloth and wrapped them around myself. I've wrapped them tightly around myself, thinking it would protect me from more harm. Truly though, I just kept adding to it, every time the pain came up.
What I called a bandage, was a strip of death.
See, death is not just...death. Death is anything that gets between me and Jesus. Death is a habit, a thought..anything that isn't from him. When I look at death like that, instead of this one time thing, this "get out of hell free" card, I realize that death is always chasing after me, always trying to sink its teeth into my soul. I realize too, that maybe this whole resting and waiting thing is not just about teaching me patience. Maybe it's about letting Jesus unwrap me out of death I didn't know had found me.
So, I believe, my God has gotten my attention with this one. I think, maybe what he is doing in all this waiting and resting is unwrapping me. Perhaps, there is still that stench of death somewhere in my heart, that place that stills needs to be unwrapped. Perhaps he needs time to work, to expose those areas to the light of day. I don't want to be a living person that looks dead. I want to stand before the world as a person called out of the cave, but also free from the many bondage's of death
Maybe it's more than just coming out of the cave.
Indeed, I think it is. Lazarus had to be unwrapped in order to walk away from his burial grounds. Those burial clothes had to be unwound, removed, cast away. I must do the same in my own life. I must allow Jesus to pull those clothes off, and he will, with his own hands.
That means waiting.
It means waiting on him to do his work. When he says, "go" it will be because he has removed the residue, the stench of death in my life. Then, I will recognize those burial clothes, when I see them lying there on the ground beside me. I won't pick them up again and wrap them around myself, but I will run from them, like my life depends on it...because it does.
What burial clothes are you wearing, friend? What has death wrapped around you that needs to be removed? Jesus not only calls you out of that cave of death, he calls you out of the bondage of death. He knows the stench of death, he knows the power of it...but he has defeated it.
Come out of your cave, and let him remove the burial clothes.
Then Jesus shouted, "Lazarus, come out!" Then the dead man came out, his hands and feet bound in graveclothes, his face wrapped in a head cloth. Jesus told them, "Unwrap him and let him go!"