Thursday, May 16, 2013

Take away the stone.

Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. “Take away the stone,” he said.

“But, Lord,” said Martha, the sister of the dead man, “by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.”

Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?”

So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.”

When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face.

Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.”
John 11:38-44

Take away the stone.

I've been repeating this constantly, whispering it. I know how it feels in my mouth now, how my teeth and tongue say it, how it flows, takeawaythestone. I know how my brain sounds out the words when I think it in the midst of the rush. I've thought it in the midst of many rushes in the last week and a half. In cars, in grocery stores, at restaurants, at my desk, at the doctor's office, surrounded by people, all alone. I've breathed it in and out. I hope it doesn't dull itself down into autopilot like so many other good habits I try to have, I hope this one can rejoice and refresh and replenish.

Take away the stone.

Is this a good habit, this repetition of a phrase that sparkled out at me from a Bible story? Can it somehow matter to me now, make my life different? Can it teach me something? Do I have to believe it all, do I have to have it all figured out about Jesus and God and faith before this simple sentence can start to mold me in new ways?

Take away the stone.

In my new spiritual formation class, we learned about and practiced Lectio Divina, an ancient practice of sacred reading, in this case of the Bible. This passage was read aloud four times. We sat in peaceful silence, surrounded by windows looking out on forest, listening to the story, waiting to hear a word or phrase that struck us deeply - and then taking it, holding it, seeking out what meaning it might have for our lives. Melding our context and God's context into one.

Take away the stone

has echoed in me like nothing else.

Since I was a kid, whenever I'm nervous or tense, my lungs like to forget how large they are, how full they can be. It's not asthma, not that wheezing battle, but more like... the air just stops a little ways from the depth it could actually reach. I sigh a lot. I yawn to fill up all the way with air. A stone of stress pressing down, blocking the fullness.

Take away the stone.

Sometimes I feel like my attempts to strive for compassion do not always succeed - sometimes I think my brain is a stone, or my heart - unmovable, stuck, blocking me from my own deep-breath, deep-love self, stopping me from loving myself or others for the pettiest reasons. 

Take away the stone - take away the desire to please people and be perfect myself.

Take away the stone - take away my focus on the smallest pieces of fear and future that I can muster, shards of what if and but maybe that crop up in the mundane moments as I type or drive or wash the dishes.

When they took away the stone in the story, new life walked in, Lazarus could breathe again. Can I?

The stone is my desire for control. The stone is anxiety, which controls my desire for control. The stone is the pursuit of perfection that isn't real but FEELS SO DAMN REAL. The stone is small, the stone is large. The stone is anything that takes me away from my most open self.

Take away the stone - not, "hey, move it for a second" - but take it away away. Let it go. Breathe.

The words flow so forward and easy but the action takes backward steps again and again.

And so I repeat it. Again and again.

Take away the stone means calm. Mindfulness. Gratitude. Forgiveness. It's not going to solve everything by a long shot. (Remember that perfection that doesn't actually exist?) But that's not what I'm asking for.

I'm asking God to bring me those words over and over and over again, however and wherever and whenever I need them.

I'm asking for that gentle knock on my heart to stay strong. I'm asking for my mind to keep me grounded within now. And I'm asking for my lungs to remember that they can breathe, deep and wide and full.


patty lane said...

This is by far the best thing I have read in a long, long time. It is so apropos. I really needed to read this, and I am asking God to remind me of this phrase whenever I need it. Such a true blessing for me. Thanks, Claire!
Patty Lane

Unknown said...

Thanks for this, Claire. One that's guided me through this last year: "Trust in the slow work of God."

Hope all is well. Miss you!