Lazarus… Randy… Come Forth

During the weeks following Easter, our church invited speakers to share their answers to the question “What does the resurrection mean to you?” This blog post is a written version of my answer last Sunday, May 1.

The Resurrection is a profoundly personal story. While Paul does record a large-scale appearance of Jesus, most are to individuals and small groups. Jesus appears to Mary in the garden. He speaks with Peter and restores him to relationship. A mysterious figure walks with two disciples but reveals himself to be the risen Jesus. Thomas’ doubts are answered when Jesus appears and invites him to believe.

Among the most personal stories of resurrection occurs before Jesus’ death – the raising of Lazarus. Lazarus, who is with his sisters among Jesus’ closest friends, dies. Jesus travels to the scene of his burial and asserts to Martha “I am the resurrection and the life.” Jesus speaks to the dead Lazarus in his tomb and tells him “Lazarus, come forth!”

May 2011 marked the end of the longest, most painful two-years of my life. Another year of challenge lay ahead. The three worst years of my life were in full swing. I felt, as people often do when life is challenging, that I could not take one more thing. One more burden would crush me. One more crisis would be one too many. And then, without warning, it came.

I was driving to the office after my once-a-month Bible study at the local nursing home. My phone had rung several times during the class but I had muted them until I could get to the office. Then one of my best friends and closest colleagues called. Something was not right. When I answered the phone he asked if I was driving – when I responded “yes” he told me to pull over. “Your dad just died.”

There are moments seared into our memories. Moments whose feeling and details come back in exquisite detail when we allow them to re-enter our consciousness. That phone call is one of them.

I can only describe that moment as a moment when I died in a way. My dad was the person who, in addition to my wife and children, had supported and encouraged me in the hell I was living. He was the human rock, the source of wisdom both practical and spiritual, in my life. And he was gone. And part of me with him.

What I thought was unimaginable grief would deepen. He was alone, at home. On the phone with the 9-1-1 operator, my dad died frightened, alone, and gasping for breath. I had imagined things in my life could not get worse… but they could.

In the days that followed I must confess I wanted to die myself at times. I didn’t sleep well. I was dying inside if not outside.

And then I heard it. My soul was heavy, full of death and pain from months of crisis climaxing in an awful moment of death. And still I heard it. Like dead Lazarus lying in his tomb – insensible to this life, to his friends and family, beyond all caring and hope – the voice of Jesus. “Randy, come forth.” The Resurrection and the Life spoke into my time of death and said “Randy live.” And by his grace and his power, by his presence and his invitation, I did.

Categories: Faith Journey | 1 Comment

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One thought on “Lazarus… Randy… Come Forth

  1. Victoria Hensley

    My dear Brother- Reading this entry only makes me wish I had been closer by during those dark days. The pain of those we love hurts us deeply, especially when we are powerless to share in it.

    The concept of resurrection throughout our lives really resonates with me. I spent some time this week thinking about my birth. And then my next birth. And the next. Some of these births were entirely involuntary. May 3,1955, for example. Mom &Dad did that. When my life was given back to me from the Guillain-Barre at 18. The losses of my parents. But there were other moments in time where my life was inexorably changed, where I was given the choice to live a new life or die where I was. The night I met Dan. Step into a new life of risk/hope or retreat into solitary safety? Answer the call to go to church or continue in empty dis-ease? There are distinct moments I can point to as the beginning of a new Vicki. A new life being born. These are my resurrections.

    Driving between errands yesterday I was thinking about the gorgeous sky. My mother used to call me on days such as these and ask, “Have you looked up today?” It was her way of trying to express her own recurring epiphany. I was thinking of how often God is calling me to live. All the pain and loss and death fall behind me; they are part of my story but not where I could survive if I remain. These moments are to remind me to choose the light, to choose hope. To answer, “Yes, Lord.” I rarely know how, only that I must.

    God bless you, Randy. Love, Vicki


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