Have you ever felt deader than dead? It is a feeling of finality; as though there is no way to possibly carry on.
I witnessed it when the young figure skater Kamila Valienva courageously took to the ice and began her final routine at the Olympics. The look in her eyes was the ‘deader than dead’ look. As she picked herself up to skate while weighted down by her circumstances many in the stands were moved to tears. My heart ached each time the camera caught her expression. In my opinion there is no good reason for any 15 year old girl to experience this ‘deader than dead’ feeling.
She isn’t alone. There a lot of people carrying the cement of ‘deader than dead’ in their souls these days.
There are those whose livelihoods have been so devastated by the past 24 months they have no idea how to carry on. Others are standing in the ashes of burned out relationships. I have lost count of how many of my friends have chosen early retirement in the past 12 months from one occupation or another because they no longer can stir up the ambition to carry on.
Lazarus walked the path of ‘deader than dead’. After a severe illness he weakened to the point of exhaustion and by the time he took his final breath his sisters Mary and Martha were tearfully wringing their hands. They knew something most of us forget, they knew that if Jesus had shown up he could have turned things around.
Jesus does arrive, too late. It had been four days since Lazarus’ body had been wrapped and placed in the burial tomb. Seeing the grief, and hearing the sadness we read the shortest sentence in the entire Bible, “He wept”. Then walking to the tomb and having the large stone removed Jesus speaks, “Lazarus, come out.”
To everyone’s amazement, Lazarus came out. He is still wrapped in his burial cloths but upon hearing Jesus say his name he rose and slowly walked out of the ‘deader than dead’.
And, that is the same for us. The wrappings may appear different; perhaps we are wrapped in grief, betrayal, brokenness, mistrust, discouragement, fear or deep sadness. But in that sacred moment when our heart hears our name whispered we start to lean away from ‘deader than dead’ towards the Light of the World. With one foot in front of the other, one day followed by another time carries us forward. God cradles us in the company of our friends and family, nurturing us with sunrises, sunsets, the wild wind, cleansing rain and comforting warmth. Slowly hope and joy take root within us and one day, we look back and see the distance we have traveled.
When Kamila Valienva arrived home there was a celebration waiting for her at the airport. The photos showed a young 15 year old smiling and genuinely relieved to be among those whose love will guide her back to life.
This week we begin the Lenten journey. This is a journey into the shadows of the ‘deader of dead’, but it must be traveled so we can arrive to the morning of jubilation. Each year we inevitably arrive to the new life promised and each time it is a celebration like never before.
Whatever you may be going through right now, hang on. The best is yet to come,