To Walk as Lazarus Among the Living

Somewhere I wrote about the Lazarus Moment. You will recall the Gospel story of the friend of Jesus who died and was put to rest in a tomb. When Jesus beheld the unbearable burden of grief that the two sisters of Lazarus had to bear, he was moved by compassion to raise the dead man back to life. Naturally, we think of this as a blessing but I’m not so sure that’s how Lazarus experienced it. After all, there is a certain order and sense to life and there is a certain order and sense to death. But what is a man to do, what is he to say, where does he belong if the life he lives has no order or sense anymore?

Dying is easy. Living, that’s the hard part. Raised from the dead, Lazarus was forced to again trod the path that inexorably leads to sorrow, loss, and death. The blessing was also a curse. Or if not a curse, certainly  a burden.

And then there were the gawkers and miracle hounds, people of much religion and little faith who prefer circus sideshows to life as it really is. Surely Lazarus must have asked himself, “Why me? Why wasn’t the widow who left behind a brood of orphans restored to life? Or the warrior hero who offered himself in battle to protect family and homeland?  Must I now wander through life a saint and no longer just a man like other men?”

Perhaps in the evening when dinner was finished and his sisters had retired for the night, a wine-heavy Lazarus looked at his friend and saw how much he was loved. And when he asked his friend, “Why me? Why did you save me?”, surely Jesus replied, “Why NOT you?”

When I lived in Rome I had a close friend who lost both of his parents early in life. Neither of them lived beyond 40 years and my friend couldn’t imagine a life for himself beyond that young age. He’s close to 55 by now and life is no longer a burden or a curse. He learned to honor the dead by living fearlessly, savoring life, and working as though the world depends on him. Whether or not it actually does depend on him, the world is a better place because of my friend.

My own life hasn’t turned out at all as I once imagined. Letting go of boyhood dreams was more painful than I could bear at times and for a while life seemed to have no direction or purpose. Only now can I see how fortunate I was to have failed in my plans. Only now do I understand that my dreams were too small. Back then my plans, my dreams, my hopes — they weren’t really even mine. They were like a suit of clothes belonging to a dead man. But I am like Lazarus and must yet walk among the living.

“Why me?” has finally become “Why NOT me?”

~BT Waldbillig
June 30, 2017

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