While I was on the plane yesterday I remembered a time when my family first found out my dad was cheating on my mom. I was 16, and my mom locked herself in her room crying. Seeing your mom sob is a disorienting experience, by the way. And as this memory rushed through my head on the airplane I started to feel guilty for not having known how to console my mom back then. She didn’t have anyone to comfort her, and I didn’t know how, and a sense of guilt anchored itself at the bottom of my stomach.
My counselor’s voice rang in my head. It wasn’t my responsibility to do something. I was only 16 years old. It’s not fair for me to expect myself to have known what to do in that moment. I was only 16.
But then I got angry at Jesus. I typically get really angry when I know Jesus cares about someone and he doesn’t meet them when they need him. And while I’m in my season of counseling and as the Lord is undoing the unhealthy ways I take on responsibility, I have lots of questions that I need answers for. Actually, it’s usually the same question, which was true for this particular memory as well. I kept thinking, “Why wasn’t Jesus comforting her in that moment, then?” If it wasn’t my responsibility to comfort my mom, then whose was it? Jesus’, naturally, I’d think. Then why didn’t he do anything?
Yesterday I ended my reflection without having an answer to that question and not knowing if I ever would. I didn’t know where Jesus was in that moment. You could tell me he was there, but really I didn’t and still don’t see it, and I still wonder what a 16 year old was supposed to do in that situation.
Similarly, for whatever reason Jesus let Lazarus die, and he let Martha and Mary cry by themselves. He didn’t meet them in their mourning and grieving and save the day before it was too late. He let Lazarus die. I don’t know why, and I don’t know if I ever will.
In my anger, I felt the Lord invite me to do one of two things: either 1) continue to demand an answer, demand he change the past, and be angry at him for letting things in my family die, or 2) let it be, lift my eyes to the hills, and recognize what he’s done since then. I couldn’t answer why Jesus didn’t show up 10 years ago in my mom’s room, but what I could do was think of how the Lord has shown up in that situation since then.
I started to think about what has been birthed out of that mess that probably wouldn’t have developed otherwise. And I thought about what the Lord has redeemed that had died or was lost because of the brokenness.
The list is incredible. My brother, Jason, is who he is because of all of this. That in itself is a gift. But not only that, he’s getting a Master’s in Marriage and Family Therapy at Fuller with which he will be a counselor, restorer, and healer of brokenness in this world. My brother is going to be an agent of healing in the world because of the brokenness we came out of and because of the Lord’s redemption.
My mom is discovering herself and starting to blossom as a person. Even if she had stayed with our dad it would have just been a band-aid to loneliness, anyway. So, instead of the wound festering under a band-aid, though it’s messy and gross, it’s actually healing.
And like my brother, the Lord is using ME as a healer in this world as I have had a large gulp of his cup of suffering. Not to mention, songs that minister to others have been birthed from all of this.
I hesitated to write this whole blog because I didn’t want people reading it and thinking the typical Christian responses that Jesus was there, that the Lord works for the good of those he loves, and all the other things that are so easy to say when you’re not the one in the midst of the crap. Though those things are true, they can easily feel trite. Crap is very crappy. It stinks, it’s unbearable at times, and it can poison your insides. And 10 years of it can often make certain moments feel like a nightmare.
When Jesus finally got to Bethany, Lazarus had already been in the tomb for 4 days, and Jesus wept. Even though he knew he was going to see Lazarus alive again soon, Jesus still wept. It’s hard for me to understand, but it gives me some insight as to how hard these things are for Jesus. Then, Jesus did an amazing miracle, showed his glory and power and love for Lazarus, and raised Lazarus from the tomb. But Jesus could not have done the resurrection if he had not gone through the pain of letting his beloved friend Lazarus die and causing Mary and Martha to have to grieve and mourn. If Jesus had met them right at the moment of their grieving and saved Lazarus from dying to spare them pain, then they would have missed out on the resurrection and all that comes with that experience. It is the Lord’s grace that he doesn’t show up sometimes, isn’t it?
For my family and I, it’s been over 10 years, and I know there is more grieving to do, but by now there is also much celebrating to do. I can choose to only grieve, to be bitter, and to demand answers, or I can accept the Lord’s invitation to celebrate and thank him for his odd kind of grace.