It just so happens that the chapter I'm currently on in "the Blue Book" is titled "Resurrection"... just in time for Easter. Coincidence? I think not. Thanks God.
The last few days have been rough. I ended a two year relationship because I felt like that relationship was no longer pointing me towards Jesus. It was just as heartbreaking to me as it was him, but I know that the Lord's hand is in it, and we will both be alright.
My childhood best friend had a baby yesterday, 4 days before the 3 year anniversary of her dad's death. It's been emotional... a strange balance of celebrating new life while still mourning the loss of a father and friend.
And in the midst of all this, it's given the message of Easter some sweet significance. Yesterday I was reading in John, chapter 20... 11-18. This is when Jesus appears to Mary Magdalene outside the tomb. After reading this yesterday, Mary's pain was so real to me. The thing I love about the Blue Book is that it also gives you some "outside reading" excerpts to relate and connect with the scripture you're reading. Yesterday's was awesome. Here's what it said...
The silence was deafening that early morning as she stood, gripped by a love that would not release her. Everyone else was gone back to their homes and their families.
"How could they forget so quickly?" she thought as she stood in the first light of dawn, tears streaming down her cheeks. "Did they not feel it too... the love? If they did, how could they leave?"
Her heart would not allow her to go, so she stayed--as near to him as she knew how. Was she waiting, was she hoping, or was she simply doing the only thing she could--to be near the place he was last near? She would rather be near him than anyone or anything. So she stayed and cried, longing to hear her name from his lips once more.
And then suddenly the voice... it startled her. Looking through the tears she could not see who it was.
"Have you seen him?" she asked. "Do you know where he is?"
It wasn't until he uttered her name that she recognized his voice, and at its sweet sound everything in her was raised to life again. It was Easter, you see... and he had risen. And because of that, so had she.
I love that. It truly paints a picture of Mary's love for Jesus, and her pain in losing him. If you've ever lost someone close to you, you know what that feels like. I remember when my friend Shea's dad died, me, Shea, and our friend Ashlee went down to his hangar where he kept his airplane. We sat there among all of his stuff, just being near where he had last been near, and we talked about him... sometimes laughing, sometimes crying. And I love how the story above says, "or was she simply doing the only thing she could--to be near the place where he was last near. She would rather be near him than anyone or anything." I can relate.
And the most significant part of that is the second sentence. She would rather be near him than anyone or anything. She longed to be where Jesus was. I think about the places where I long to be to feel God's presence. Worshiping with my church family. Sitting in the sun in the mountains of North Carolina, where I first fell in love with Jesus. At home with my sisters and my parents. We all have places where we feel most near Jesus, and we long to be there. Right now I'm in a place where I want so badly to be near Him, because my heart hurts, and it's too much for me to deal with alone.
But the next part is better. Jesus says one word... "Mary." And as Jim Branch writes in his version of the story, the sweet sound of his voice raised her back to life again. I think about those moments I've had... when I've been in darkness, and God does something to say, "Sara"... and I'm raised to life again. The last words of Jim's story say, "he had risen... and because of that, so had she."
There's pain in loss. Whether it be a breakup, a death, or whatever. Jesus felt it. Mary felt it. We all go through seasons of feeling it... but we are all risen to life, eternal life, all because Jesus felt the greatest pain of all time. He felt all the pain of the world, past, present and future, in one moment on the cross. I can't imagine.
All this being said, I found encouragement in this story, because I know that although I'm in pain right now, God is faithful. That doesn't mean that I am miraculously healed of all the heartache, but it means that as long as I continue to draw near to him, there will be a moment when I hear him say my name, and I'm risen to life again.
In the meantime, I am so incredibly blessed with people in my life who point me towards the Lord... to encourage me and lift me up in prayer. They are the tangible love of Christ in my every day life. To those people... thank you. You will never know how much you mean to me.