Tactile Faith

The scripture passage that has intrigued me the most lately is John’s account of Jesus resurrecting Lazarus in the eleventh chapter of his gospel. Instead of asking His Father to revive Lazarus, Jesus thanked God for having already done so.

This detail struck a chord with me because of the manner in which I know that I pray most often. During a typical prayer, I will ask God to help this, protect that, forgive me, bless her, etc. But, how often have I actually thanked God in advance, in faith, as if my prayer had already been answered?

One of the few circumstances in which I have definitely felt the assurance of sincere faith involves the prayer that my family and I pray together when we are preparing to depart on a long road trip. During such times I, most often, will pray for God’s protection to keep the driver awake, alert, and the family safe as we travel. Then, I follow up with the sincere statement that we trust in his protection.

At the moment that my proclamation of our trust exits my mouth, I feel, with all sincerity, that we will be protected.

Now, I need to kneel and sincerely seek his guidance and direction in the same manner and trust that he will provide what I need to live for him in all circumstances.

“So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.” – John 11:41-42

Take Off Your Clothes

…Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.” John 11:43

In the eleventh chapter of the book of John, Jesus had just been “deeply moved in spirit and troubled,” when he met Mary and the Jews who had followed her from her home Judea where Lazarus lay dead. After reminding the onlookers that their faith would lead to their sight of the glory of God, Jesus ordered that the stone covering the tomb of Lazarus be removed. He then proceeded to look up and pray to God. After He thanked His Father for listening he ordered, “Lazarus, come out!” So, he did. Lazarus emerged from the tomb with his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen and a cloth around his face.

I can’t seem to let go of the deep, personal implications of this selection of scripture. As a man who is, in a very real way, chained to death itself by my own selfishness, anger, hunger, and fear, I realize that I am no better, and possibly far worse, off than Lazarus was laying dead and cold in the tomb for four days. The emotional ebb and flow of this shell, these grave clothes, that I live in acts as a dead-weight straight jacket on my soul.

Through no merit of his own, but by diving mercy, he has been called out of darkness into wondrous light. “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.” (Eph. 2:8). Unnecessary emotional suffering – depression, anxiety, guilt fear, and sadness – is vanquished by the transforming power of the love of Jesus Christ. (from DEVOTIONS FOR RAGAMUFFINS, by Brennan Manning, Pp.105)

Hope is graciously found in Jesus Christ’s promise to return life to the dead, like me, regardless of the sin-tarnished costume that I wear so well. By inviting me to turn to Him, He refilled my lungs so that I can carry on for His purpose despite my own continued flaws and shortcomings.

Until that day when I am fully free, I recognize that any good that may come from me is, in fact, in spite of me. Instead of originating in me, any good that seems to come from me is only an appreciative and restrained, yet, poor reflection of the unmerited favor and goodness of God.

His grace urges me forward each day in anticipation of the day when He will finally remove my grave clothes for good.