This morning—Bright Monday, the day after Easter—I read the online Easter Sunday reflection from the Henri Nouwen Society. As the mother of an adult son with autism, Nouwen’s writings invariably bring me encouragement and hope. But today, one quote from the short reading hit me like a kick in the stomach. It wasn’t something said by Nouwen, but by a woman who “works with many anguished people.”
She said, “We have to keep rolling away the large stones that prevent people from coming out of their graves.”
Isn’t that what I’ve been trying, and failing, to do for years? Trying to roll away the stone for that loved one with deep depression, the one who can’t leave the house to work? Trying to roll away the stone for another loved one who has bought into a lie and chooses the lie instead of the love? Trying to roll away the stone for the loved one who has not been able to work regularly for several years? Trying to roll away the stone for loved ones with dementia and autism and anxiety disorders? Trying to roll away the stone and make sense out of this worldwide pandemic of COVID-19?
I sit with the feelings of helplessness, knowing these feelings are real and not to be pushed away. Feelings of helplessness roil around in my stomach and make my head feel as if it is being squeezed in a vice. Unpleasant as the feelings are, I persevere in allowing myself to truly feel them. As I often gently teach in my role as a spiritual director, feelings are messengers from God. They are not to be ignored or pushed down. Much easier to teach than practice!
With the helplessness comes a realization.
No man or woman pushed away that boulder from Jesus’ tomb on Easter morning. This was the work of the Spirit of God. The work of revealing and resurrecting is always the work of the Spirit, not the work of human beings.
It is not my job to roll away the stones that prevent people from coming out of their graves. It is the work of the Spirit of God.
What is my job in these seemingly hopeless situations?
My job is to sit in the presence of my Lord, who just happens to be the King of the Universe; Creator God; Jehovah Rapha, the God who heals.
My job is to sit with my Lord, who took on the disability of humanity in order to walk where we walk; to feel as we feel; to suffer as we suffer; to die as we die; to rise again from the grave, giving us Eternal Life, now and forever, in his presence.
My job is to choose faith in my Lord’s Sozo power, the power that brings healing and wholeness— mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and physically—and allow it to wash over me, filling my powerlessness with HIS power.
It is the work of the Spirit to roll away these stones. It is my work to be continually in prayer for these situations, and always be ready with a well-chosen word, a gesture of love, a memory to share. It is my work to ask if people would like prayer, and if they say yes, to lay my hands on them and pray, in the name of Jesus, for the stones in their lives to be rolled away. It is my work to sit and listen to their stories, even as I listen to the Holy Spirit.
Another quote from today’s reading, one that resonates deeply within me, was this:
”It is such comfort to know that Jesus’ wounds remain visible in his risen body. Our wounds are not taken away, but become visible sources of hope for others.”
Yes! It is in sharing my own woundedness, and the ways that the Lord has healed my wounds, that the sweet aroma of Jesus is released. This is the way that we become wounded healers.
Thank you, Lord, for your willingness to suffer for my sins; for your resurrection power that pushed away the stones and opened up not only your grave, but my grave and the graves of all of those who call on your name. Thank you for not giving me the responsibility for the healing of others, but for channeling your love and power through me so that others might be healed by your presence and your touch.