living the risen life

Living the Risen Life

Apr 4, 2018

I’ve thought about him a lot this week, in spite of the two thousand years that separate us. We have similar stories, I guess you could say. The unexpected illness. The brush with death. The risen life on the other side. There is only one stark difference: Lazarus died. I didn’t.

His wasn’t a momentary death, a stopped heartbeat followed by a quick resuscitation. Instead, Lazarus spent a solid four days dead. A long weekend, you could say. Long enough to jump on a plane and get a decent tan on an exotic beach.

Then, Jesus came. Late, but he came all the same. Standing outside of Lazarus’ tomb, He mourned, the writer John says. And then He commanded:

Lazarus, come out!

I’ve been wondering what it was like for Lazarus, to be shrouded in the dark, blanketed in four days of death. And then, to hear a voice. The Voice. The one he recognized. The one he couldn’t refuse.

Then, like the rush of a wind strong enough to lift dead weight, Lazarus feels his body fill with life. First, his ears, tingling. Then, eyes blink open and start to see. Fingers and toes start to move. Electricity spreads up legs and arms, through shoulders, circling around his neck. The rush thrills him, terrifies him.

Again, The Voice.

So Lazarus sits, puts his feet to the floor, and obeys.

He walks out.

This is the moment I’ve been thinking of, the moment I can’t seem to shake. Lazarus leaves the dark behind and emerges into the afternoon light.

I picture him squinting, shocked by the intensity, taking a moment to adjust his eyes. Taking in all the friends and strangers gathered on the hillside, still in shock from the miracle. Waiting for someone to step close and help to take off the grave clothes that still bound him.

What happened after those moments? When his eyes became accustomed to the light and the people stopped their gawking? When he exchanged his grave clothes for everyday clothes? When he kissed his family, ate his dinner, crawled into his bed.

He’d been four-days dead, but was now alive. A reality not easily swallowed. Eventually, somehow, the friends and strangers returned to their ordinary life.

But I doubt Lazarus could do the same.

A dance with death changes a man. A woman. And although the body may yet be alive, the one that walks out is no longer the one that walked in. Lazarus now lived a risen life, a life lost and re-found.

The Bible doesn’t give details about Lazarus’ life in the years after his death. We don’t know how the experience impacted him, what he discussed with his therapist, the words he recorded in his journal. We don’t have a window into his thought process, spiritual questions, or the lasting emotional impact, both good and bad. But I can’t help but believe that Lazarus wasn’t the same man anymore. And that perhaps the transition jarred him a bit, as it has me.

It’s now been four days since Easter Sunday. Four days since we celebrated The Resurrection, a day when death was conquered, once and for all. It was a glorious day, filled with hope and good news and joy in the gift of life.

But living the Risen Life is more than a single day in the calendar year. It’s choosing to live risen every day before and after, even the hard ones.

Like Lazarus, we’ve all had our brush with death, a moment or two when the light was eclipsed by a terrible dark. We know what it’s like to feel the breath squeezed out of us by hard relationships, tough circumstances, unexpected events. And although we might push through to the other side, it often takes us more than a minute to adjust our eyes from dark to the light.

In fact, many of us find ourselves struggling to leave the dark at all.

The reality of our mortality, our fragility and the brokenness of this world make it hard to focus on anything except what is yet dead wrong.

But to live the Risen Life is to choose to walk out of our tombs, day after day, because we hear The One Voice that matters far more than all the others.

To live the Risen Life is to daily push back the dark and live in the light.

To live the Risen Life is to mourn our losses, but not be bound by them.

To live the Risen Life is to acknowledge our grave clothes, but never stop loosing them.

To live the Risen Life is to engage with what’s right in front of us, rather than what was or may yet be.

To live the Risen Life is to choose the sharp light of relationship over the safety of isolation.

Even if we don’t always understand or appreciate the new life we’ve been given.

We mustn’t forget: There’s more than One person who was raised from the dead on Easter Sunday. I was. And you were, too. 

Time to fling off the grave clothes, friends. It’s time to abandon the dark for the presence of the light. Time to loose ourselves from the past and present circumstances that bind us. Time to listen to The Voice that calls us, even if it means walking into a crowd of gawking strangers.

The Risen Life isn’t an easier life, not at all. But it’s a miracle just the same. And I, for one, don’t want to miss it. 

12 Comments

  1. Linda Lochridge Hoenigsberg

    “To live the risen life is to acknowledge our grave clothes but never stop loosing them.” This has been a struggle for me. For a long time I felt stuck. I was tired of fighting the grave clothes. Recently I have felt strengthened. “For when I am weak, he is strong.” I’m going to keep loosing. As long as I breathe air, I will not stay “shrouded in the dark.”

    Reply
    • Michele Cushatt

      I get weary of fighting the grave clothes too, Linda. Often. But we keep loosing, one day at a time, not thinking of the many unknown days ahead. With you.

      Reply
  2. Diane Nichols

    Captivating read!

    Reply
  3. Julie Tourikis

    Michelle, I am so glad the Lord led me to you when hearing you on an interview through Focus on the Family. I almost had to pull my car off the road when you were speaking because everything you were saying was for me. I looked you up and joined your blog. I have been checking my e-mail constantly. All of your words here were so in my heart an mind but I couldn’t get them out. Thank you so much for sharing I am just starting to hear the Lord tell me come out. All my love Julie

    Reply
  4. Trudy

    I sometimes wonder if Lazarus was disappointed to wake up alive on this earth, because his spirit must have been in heaven those four days. I’m certain, too, that his life was never the same. Those brushes with death transform us, don’t they? I love this encouraging message, Michele. My spirit gets so weary sometimes, especially when my body feels so sluggish and achy, but I have to remember that the same Voice that spoke power into Lazarus has and will continue to speak power into us. With you, I desire to listen to “The One Voice that matters far more than all the others.” Thank you for this hope-filled post! Love and hugs to you!

    Reply
  5. Lisa Phillips

    I agree with Julie. The Lord led me to you through the interview you had on Focus on the Family. I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2016. I went through remission for a year. In February 2018 my cancer came back and it’s here to stay. I will be on chemo for the rest of my life. At first I was devastated and chemo is hard but I have chosen to embrace it and have a good attitude. God is with me daily and I have a large support system. I go to Cancer support group at my church and we watched an interview you had on video. You are very encouraging. I bought your book called Undone. I can’t wait to read it and I will share your book with others. Thank you for sharing your cancer journey with us. It’s a tough journey but there are gems along the way if we will only keep our eyes open to see them.

    Reply
  6. Josette

    Michele, I’ve followed you since my stage 4 cancer diagnosis 2.5 years ago. According to the Drs my tombstone should have read 1969-2016 but what do you know – I’m here messaging you. You have brought me back from the brink on many occasions with your writings. This has to be my favorite. This SO resonates with me. I will have to re-read several times. Lots of jewels in this one. THANK YOU AGAIN!

    Reply
  7. Patty

    Excellent post- you are a wise woman
    Agree- will need to revisit these words daily ! Thank you

    Reply
  8. Shirley

    Thank you Michelle for shining your light into the world❤️

    Reply

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