In John 11 we read the story of Lazarus. There are so many takeaways from it, but today what captured my attention was this interaction between Martha and Jesus, in which he tells her she does not have to wait.
She replied, “Yes, I know he will rise with everyone else on resurrection day.” “Martha,” Jesus said, “You don’t have to wait until then. I am the Resurrection, and I am Life Eternal.”
Waiting. It’s not something I’ve always done well. In fact, one of my “greatest” strengths is Quick to Act. I’m typically the one who immediately jumps at opportunities, who comes to conclusions, who sizes up situations, and acts.
But I put myself in Martha’s shoes for a second, and recall those times I’ve not been able to act quickly. Times I have felt frozen in my steps, not certain of what to do next. It’s excruciating for me, because my desire to want to act quickly is still there, but I can’t unleash it. There’s such an inward frustration in that space of WANTING to act, yet not following through.
So what holds me back in those moments, when I want to move forward, but choose not to? Perhaps it’s a perceived knowledge or experience deficit, a lack of initiative, a lack of confidence, or a fear of failure. You have to fill in that blank for yourself, but ultimately it’s a wall of our own making. Martha has knowledge – she says plainly, “I know he will rise.” She has experience of seeing Jesus’s miraculous works, and she has faith in God. But she is seeing through her own eyes, her own filters of life and of death. Lazarus has been dead for four days, and to her, that clearly means he’s gone forever.
I was speaking to our Leadership Residency students this week, pulling together a couple of themes from this semester’s curriculum. As part of our TotalSDI assessment results, we discussed how we communicate with others. We see everything and everyone around us through our own filters, and our expectations are based on what we’ve come to expect from ourselves. It’s a valuable exercise for personal development and conflict resolution to see beyond ourselves, and really seek to connection and relationship with others.
In this intimate interaction, Martha’s expectations are clearly based on her own earthly experiences and filters of life and death. She has built a wall and it’s blocking her view of the situation as seen through Jesus’s eyes. And in this moment, Jesus asks Martha to open her eyes, and invites her to understand his perspective.
Here’s what I’m taking away from this. Sometimes waiting is appropriate. After Jesus was notified of Lazarus’s illness, he chose to wait to return to him. Jesus knew what would happen, and the waiting he initiated was to fulfill a greater purpose. Martha and Mary did not understand that purpose. All they saw was death and and a missed opportunity for healing.
When we discern the need to wait, let’s picture ourselves at the feet of Jesus, telling him about that thing in our life that is overwhelming us and keeping us from moving forward. Let’s reveal the earthly filters we have placed on our problems because he knows all of that anyway! But, let’s expect to hear him tell us when we no longer have to wait. And in that moment, when we see through his eyes, I pray it’s what we need to give us the strength to take our first steps out of the waiting room.