Every day since Lazarus walked, alive and whole, out of that tomb seemed like a new gift to unwrap. Everyone speaks of second chances, but when you really get one, the air around you is electric with possibility and hope. I learned something on that awful, wonderful day when Jesus came walking up our lane and we knew we’d have to tell him he was too late: Lazarus had succumbed to the sickness that had wasted his body. We’d washed his spare, slack limbs and rubbed the oils into his skin, wound the cloth around him and set him to rest in the family tomb. I’d fallen at Jesus’ feet, just crumpled with despair. I had so many questions but I just blurted out, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” We knew Jesus could have healed Lazarus. So lost I was. What would Martha and I do now? What were we supposed to even believe? And Jesus’ tears matched my own and his shoulders shook from the sobbing and …
Poppies don’t unfurl demurely, as the rose, or uncurl like the clematis and daisy. Poppies flash and pop and flare their skirts like flamenco dancers. They sail on wind and hold the thunderstorm rains with gentle hands. They surprise.
And you know what? I wish, oh I wish, I could bottle up that moment and breathe its truth in my day-to-day life. I wish I could mix an endless supply of it and pour it all over for everyone else. When I worry in the night, or pray for a friend or hear stories of terror in far flung parts of the globe or wonder if a pedophile might be stalking my neighborhood, I long for the suspended moments where I swung in the space of existence completely at trust, at peace. No more questions or answers. Just faith distilled into peace.
Of course, I sat there wishing it were me in the papery gown, making small talk with the technician, feeling the needles press through my skin and tissue with their numbing serum. I wish she were in the waiting room, or better yet, off at school or work or eating too many Oreos with her roommates. I wish she hadn’t felt a lump or spent time searching the internet for possible diagnoses. I wish cancer wasn’t even a fleeting thought in her beautiful brain.
But friend, the Joy of the Lord is My Strength. It is my muscle and ligament, my throbbing heart and my contracting diaphragm. The joy (all hope, all purpose, all mercy) is my life, even when I have absolutely no strength of my own. It is the skeleton of my faith and the skin of my hope. It is the realest reality I’ve ever known.
The canoe was metaphor, the cottage a symbol and the lake is an altar – only temporary images of the substance of the faith that enabled us to journey this far and the joy that carried us in powerful arms when we couldn’t walk upright from the wreckage of our lives.