My goal is to know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, assuming that I will somehow reach the resurrection from among the dead. Philippians 3:10-11
The heart of my journey really began four years ago. That’s when I purposed to know God. For my determined purpose at that time was that I would know Him, that I would become more deeply and intimately acquainted with Him, and that I would perceive and recognize and understand the wonders of His person (Philippians 3:10, AMP). Beautiful and inspiring words. However, I conveniently overlooked the last portion of that verse. The part about being conformed to His death. So basically, when Philippians 3:10 became my heart prayer, I didn’t fully comprehend what it was I was asking for. I didn’t realize that in order to know Him the way I wanted to, I’d first have to know His Son. Essentially, I’d have to first taste death. While in this body. The hope being that I would be resurrected here and now. And so, to know Him as I so purposed, I would have to rise from the dead just as He did. But that would have to take place here on earth.
I didn’t know this four years ago. And because God sent me to my land of promise after the above became my prayer, I thought I had already attained a resurrected life. For I was lifted up and on top of the world as I made my triumphant entry. But, in contemplating another triumphant entry, the triumphant entry, I can easily spot the differences. For He rode into town on a donkey. Me? I straddled a high horse as I made my entrance. He came to die. Me? I came home to live. Funny that He died and rose to eternal life, whereas I held tight to my life, resulting in a slow death.
At some point in the past couple of years, I realized I had to die to self. But you know, I really died long before then for I had succumbed to death in another manner. It’s the book of James that describes such a death with the rich man withering away in pursuit of his activities. And although my activities were not necessarily bad things, I just allowed them to consume me. Like being a workaholic. Or how about begin a perfectionist? Or trying to fit too many things into a schedule? Or one of my greatest loves is sleep. I could easily sleep my life away. But the thing I have felt the guiltiest about is how I handled the first few months after settling into our home here. My son was always up before me. My little four year old had to get me out of bed. And so, guilt assailed me. And yet, I could not seem to get my priorities straight. That’s when depression set in. And as we’ve all heard, sleep is a sign of depression. So more sleep ensued.
This is what happened in my home. I slept. And felt guilt. And sank into such a rut. And the more I walked in my rut, the deeper the grooves became. Before I knew it, walls of dirt surrounded me growing higher and higher as I dug out my pit. And before I knew it, the last pile of dirt was thrown on top. And there I was… lying in a heap of guilt. In my own home, my sanctuary, my cave, my hide-out. It was here that I died a spiritual death for my bedroom became my tomb. But this wasn’t the end of my story. In fact, it was just the beginning of new life. For God didn’t let me stay where I was.
My life began to turn around in my bedroom. Because when I couldn’t stand myself one minute more, I relented. I began to set my alarm clock so that I would wake before my son. And before he stirred, I sought comfort from Scripture. In this room, my heart began to beat again as I sought to be near God. And within these four walls I finally came to terms with God and His ways. Here I came to know Him as I so purposed four years earlier. Yes, it may be true that I died here. But more importantly, it’s here that He brought me back to life. And it’s here that He bids me to rise today.
When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. “Where have you laid him?” he asked. “Come and see, Lord,” they replied. Jesus wept. Then the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?” Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. “Take away the stone,” he said. “But, Lord,” said Martha, the sister of the dead man, “by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.” Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?” 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.” When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face. Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.” John 11:32-44
A miracle occurred in Bethany when Lazarus, who had been dead for days, emerged from his tomb. No different than the miracle that took place in my bedroom. For though I entered it one way, over time, I came out differently. Transformed. And in looking back I can honestly say I am not who I once was. I may have fallen asleep and into a tomb of guilt, but I rise up a new creature. But, oh, I still slip up as evidenced by Mother’s Day. As a lover of sleep, the one thing I wanted as a gift from my family was a nap. A glorious lie-down. And so, I told my son… 99 minutes! Afterward, I’d play badminton. But first, my nap. So we set the timer on the microwave (thus the 99 minutes – if I could have made it longer, I would have). And I lay there. I drifted off easily, but awoke too soon. I heard little fingers on that timer. Beep. Beep. Beep. But not the normal timer. I heard a little sing-song voice say, “The timer’s off.” But I knew it was too early. No way had 99 minutes passed. So I told him, “It’s not time!” He decided to play I-pad on the bed while I dozed. Once, twice, twenty times more, I was jostled awake by his body as it jerked along with the characters of the game. My own body shuddered with inward sighs. Then, the roar of a lawn-mower followed by a drone of a weed eater, both outdone by the blower. Loudness. My little one checked the clock. I heard a whisper, “Five more minutes.” Then his footsteps on the basement steps rivaled by the clacking of badminton rackets. “Three more minutes…”
No, I wasn’t a happy creature Mother’s Day afternoon. It must have been apparent as my little one looked down at me, “Oh, you don’t want to get up because you’re so comfortable?” My response was to flop over onto my back with my arm outstretched. “Oh no, she’s dead,” he said in a playful voice. But in hearing this, I arose. Because I am not dead. And I couldn’t deny it any longer… for when I heard the clack of the rackets, I knew my time had come. It made no difference that I really had five more minutes. Because when you’re called forth, you’re called forth. Kind of like with the tomb. It may feel like we need a few more minutes. But when it’s time, He calls.
As sure as I heard the rattling of the rackets on Mother’s Day, I hear Him now. He calls to me, “Pam, come out!” And so, it’s time. I remove my grave clothes and walk forward.