A few weeks ago, I walked into the living room, still groggily wiping sleep from my eyes and mentally thinking through my to-dos for the day, and immediately started blinking back tears.
I planted the bulb in December, watered it through January, and kept waiting for it to bloom. An amaryllis grows in winter, when harvest has come and gone and we’re waiting for spring to arrive. When so much feels quiet and still, dead and bare with no signs of life to be seen, the amaryllis slowly begins to rise.
And then, one morning in February, after weeks of waiting and watching and tending, this:
I know it’s true, and I bet you do too, but I’ve needed the reminder lately:
Beautiful things can grow in dark spaces. Even when there’s “nothing to show for it” yet, God is at work.
The week before the amaryllis began to bloom, I spent a few evenings reading (and re-reading) the story of Lazarus in John 11.
Have you heard it before? If so, for the next few minutes would you pretend that it’s brand new, that you have no idea what happens?
I’ll confess that all too often I read a familiar story, one I’ve heard many times before, and I begin to skim through. “Lazarus? Oh, you mean the dead man who came back to life.”
Wait. What? A dead man . . . who came back to life.
There’s nothing commonplace about this story, and what a shame it is when I rush through and miss the miracle.
Night after night, I sat on the couch and read through John 11. I imagined their faces, felt their confusion, sat in their grief. We know, of course, that in verse forty-four Lazarus will walk out of the tomb. But everyone who gathered at the tomb of a dead man — his sisters Mary and Martha, the disciples, and the people who came to mourn — thought the story was long over.
They were in the middle of a miracle — they just didn’t know it yet.
As I sat on the couch, the Word in my hands and the amaryllis growing a few feet away, I found myself saying these words out loud:
“That’s what You do. It’s who You are. You bring what is dead back to life. Because of You, this isn’t where the story ends.”
And then I teared up again. Because there have been things in my life, and maybe yours too, that felt too far gone and so very dead. I’ve watered and tended, prayed and held onto hope when there seemed no logical reason to hope any longer. I’ve waited and watched for the rising from the dirt and the raising from the dead.
I can imagine their faces, feel their confusion, and sit in their grief because I have known loss and walked roads I never would have chosen.
I’ve doubted. I’ve asked questions that never received an answer. I’ve prayed and instead of hearing a “yes” or a “no,” there has simply been silence.
These are the stories we don’t like to talk about, the in-between seasons that we simply can’t wrap words around as we hold hope in one hand and confusion in the other.
It has never once looked exactly like what I hoped, never once happened on my timetable. Always, harvest has come and gone; the world has slowed and stilled and I’m left waiting for the color and life of spring. But I’ve learned, and am still learning, that He is not a waster of hurt or hope. He is the God of miracles and resurrection, of life from death and beauty from ashes.
He is the God who comes for us and comforts us, who knows that joy is coming but still chooses to meet us in our mourning.
Because of Jesus, what looks like the end might actually be the middle.
Resurrection might be on the way, right this very minute.
As for me, I will always have hope; I will praise you more and more.
Psalm 71:14 (NIV)
If He ultimately holds the pen, if He’s the Author of our stories, then He gets to decide where to place the period and when to write “the end.”
It’s easier to write in a blog post than to live out, I know.
The truth is, sometimes we aren’t given an answer and what is dead stays in the grave. Sometimes, we don’t receive what we long and hope and pray for.
In John 11:25, Martha runs to Jesus in her brokenness. She seems to question His goodness, wondering why He didn’t show up in time and do something to change the outcome. And with Lazarus still in the grave, Jesus declares that He is the resurrection and the life.
Could it be that when we have Him, we have both? Resurrection and life are already ours, already written into our stories, because Jesus comes and He’s enough.
Resurrection doesn’t look like the “before,” but it is still so very good. It might happen in the way we’re hoping, or it might be a redemption and a healing within us alone. But it will be worth the wait, worth the planting and stretching and dying, because it’s a miracle — a right-on-time, abundantly more miracle.
If you’re praying for resurrection today, know that I’m praying for you. This isn’t where the story ends.
This post was supposed to go live a few days ago but due to a technical snafu, it never published (oops). So–I’m extending the sale through tomorrow (3/4) at 10pm CT! In case you missed the “heads up” in my Thursday Things email last week, to celebrate the five year “book birthday,” my first book is currently 50% off! Even If Not: Living, Loving, and Learning in the in Between will help you choose hope for tomorrow when today feels like a question mark. Learn to shift from this suspicion that God isn’t kind or present to the truth found in Scripture: on every single page of the story, God is with us and working all things for our good.