“I feel like I am Lazarus.”
This is something that my dad said to me a couple of weeks ago, and the phrase has haunted me since.
You see, the story of Lazarus always seemed to be a wonderful story — but not really a story that I personally related to in any respect. I appreciated the discussion between Martha and Jesus — what incredible faith that Martha showed! I appreciated the fact that Jesus loved and wept with Mary Magdalene in what was probably one of the most awful things that she experienced in her life. I appreciated the grandness of the story and the power that it has… but only as an outsider looking in.
But the story seems awfully real and horribly raw now.
An Unexpected Emergency
A couple of weeks ago (has it really been so long???) my parents came over to my house to celebrate my 3-year-old’s birthday. It was a sweet birthday with sweet cake and it was so nice to see them after such a long time. But that day, which was really quite a nice day, quickly devolved into a nightmare.
You see, my dad had a terrible headache. Which got worse. And worse and worse. A couple of hours after the birthday party, he finally gave up trying to tough it out and called an advice nurse, who advised him to go to the ER immediately. He went, thinking that the headache was probably not a huge deal and that this would be a precautionary over-reaction, just to be on the safe side. My parents didn’t even wake me up, thinking that they didn’t want to bother me in the middle of the night for something that was probably going to end up being nothing.
It was not nothing.
An artery in his brain had ruptured and his brain was being quickly surrounded by blood from the ruptured artery.
The ER airlifted him to a hospital nearby, which coincidentally specialized in neuroscience. There, they did emergency brain surgery and repaired the artery. In fact, by the time that I finally woke up and found out, the surgery was already in progress.
And I was scared.
You see, the odds of surviving this sort of thing are not great. Most people die (an estimated 50-90%), because they don’t realize how serious the condition is until its too late. If they are able to get emergency care — and that’s a big if! — they have about an 80% chance of surviving the surgery. Then there is the problem about breathing… when someone has major brain surgery, they are put on a ventilator and intubated. If they cannot get off the ventilator within 48 hours, this is a Bad Sign. And even if they survive after the surgery and are able to breathe on their own, there is a very strong likelihood that there will be Major Problems ahead, such as coma, paralysis, memory loss, cognitive problems, and other things.
So we were afraid.
For that first week, I spent my time, hanging out with my mom in sort of a foggy haze while my husband took some time off of work and basically made sure that everyone was fed and the children were amused. My brother came the worst day — the day where my dad had brain surgery — and visited with my mom too.
And we waited and prayed and waited some more.
When the doctor called and told us the surgery had been successful and the artery repaired, we were so relieved. When we found out that he was off the ventilator and breathing on his own, we were so happy. When we found out that he was able to squeeze a nurse’s hand on command(!) we were ecstatic. When we found out that, after a couple of days, he could walk, it seemed too good to be true.
And when we heard his voice — laughing and joking with us normally, as if nothing serious had happened (one of the first things he said to us was, “What a way to spend a birthday party!”) — it was nothing short of miraculous.
“I feel like I am Lazarus.”
If he is like Lazarus, then I am admit to feeling like Martha.
I mean, just look at her.
No, I was not angry at God. No, I did not doubt Him during this time. I knew that Jesus was Lord and trusted in Him, being quite confident in the God’s power to do whatever God wanted. And yet… it still seemed strange, as if it seemed like God had been oddly absent.
That phrase is repeated by both sisters, but Martha is the first one to utter it.
“If You were there, this wouldn’t have happened.”
How many times have I thought this these last couple of weeks?
It’s an easy thought to have, especially when your world is crashing down on you. If God were there, perhaps the world wouldn’t crash down. If God were there, there would be no suffering. If God were there, perhaps things wouldn’t be so scary. If God were there, perhaps…
A Chaotic Miracle
In retrospect, God was with me the entire time. I didn’t realize it at the time,mind you, but looking back on it, this whole experience has the fingerprints of God, for everything about it seems to be miraculous.
Just… it’s a bit hard to see the miracle because of the chaos involved. After all, it’s not like my dad was magically healed right away. There were several days in which we lived by the phone and wondered if he was going to live or not. His life depended on the people taking care of him. Things were very scary for a time. Things are less scary now — he is feeling much, much better. But there is still so much healing to be done.
And it wasn’t like I was unafraid while I was waiting. In fact, I was very much afraid! And also sad too, because in my wildest nightmares, I had never anticipated anything like this ever happening. My dad, almost dying at my house on the night of my child’s birthday party? Such a thought would have never crossed my mind.
Is it really a miracle if it is accompanied by fear and sadness? Is it truly a miracle if it happens in abject chaos?
But if I think about it — seriously think about it, mind you — Jesus was always at home in the chaos making miracles.
When throngs of thousands of people pressed against Him and begged Him for miracles, He was happy to comply. (If throngs of people pressed against me, I would panic, not going to lie!)
Even in the case of Lazarus, there was a certain sort of chaotic energy around Him.
After that conversation with Jesus, Martha rushes back to Mary Magdalene, who is at her home, mourning, and tells Mary to rise up and meet Jesus. And so Mary Magdalene does just that!
Chaos in Art
And it’s a chaotic scene in art… just take a look!
So many people! The disciples are behind Jesus whereas the mass of people who came along with Mary are all around. They’ve pried open the door, at Jesus’ command, and there are many people holding their nose to keep the stench of death away. (Martha did warn them, after all — in fact, that’s what she is doing in the picture, dressed in blue and green!) And there, wrapped in burial clothes is Lazarus, standing there, alive.
And yet, even though Lazarus is standing there, alive, all of the eyes are not on him. In fact, everybody seems to be a little disoriented. Some people look too confused as to what’s going on to even begin to process the miracle that has just taken place. Mary Magdalene is still prostrate on the ground, her eyes on Jesus, seemingly unaware of what is going on behind her. (I don’t think she really is very attentive when she is grieving, and I love her all the more for this.)
The only person who really seem to understand what is going on is Jesus.
And perhaps that is okay.
An Uninspirational Conclusion
This is the part where I am supposed to wrap things up and write something inspirational about God being amazing, but honestly, I fully admit that I am one of those people in the painting who are very, very confused and still trying to process things.
I know that God is powerful.
I know that what happened is miraculous.
But I still don’t understand anything.
I am like Martha, who warns Jesus that things stink, without really thinking about who she is talking to.
There are so many horrible things that happen in the world — things could have easily turned out really badly for us. Sometimes God doesn’t grant miracles.
But God, for some strange reason, gave us a miracle. And my head is still spinning about this.
Mind you, I am eternally grateful. Confused, but grateful.
My dad is alive.
For now, that is enough.
And so now, since he is staying at my house while he recovers (which, let me tell you, is chaotic on a normal day, but this whole thing has made the chaos transcend exponentially!) and I am finally happy to be following Martha’s example by serving him. In fact, it’s nice to be able to serve him!
Anyway, please pray for his recovery. He’s doing well — surprisingly well, in fact! But recovery from this sort of thing takes a frustrating amount of time. And pray for us too! This has been quite an ordeal, and we are so grateful for any of your prayers. <3