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Biblia Luna # 32
Welcome to Issue #32 of Biblia Luna, the weekly newsletter about the intersection of mental illness and faith.
Crazy Lectionary: Fifth Sunday in Lent
March 26 will be the Fifth Sunday in Lent. The lectionary readings for this day are Ezekiel 37:1-14; Psalm 130; Romans 8:6-11; and John 11:1-45.
The gospel reading here is the story of the raising of Lazarus. In the story, Jesus receives word that his friend Lazarus is sick. Instead of traveling to Bethany immediately to help him, Jesus waits a few days until Lazarus has died, and only then travels there with his disciples. He encounters Lazarus’ sisters, Martha and Mary, and both of them are so sad that he hadn’t arrived sooner, because they believe he could have helped Lazarus then. Yet Jesus is able to do something. He tells the people there to move the stone aside from Lazarus’ tomb. And he cries out: “Lazarus, come out!” The dead man comes out, dressed in his shroud. And Jesus tells the people gathered there to “unbind him, and let him loose.”
And there’s something really powerful and important going on here, I think, in the way Jesus acts in bringing Lazarus back to life. He surrounds his own miraculous work with the work of other people. Yes, Jesus himself certainly does the miracle of raising Lazarus. But before he does that, he tells other people to move the stone (as though to make room for the miracle); and afterward, he tells other people to unwrap the resurrected man (as though to take care of him afterward, and bring him back not only to life, but to living).
I think this is how God sometimes works in our lives. I believe that God has saved me from death on several occasions, moments when I would have taken my own life if not for God’s intervention. And I also believe that there have been moments in my life when I was feeling as good as dead, shrouded in a deep depression even if it didn’t reach the point of suicide. In those moments, God brought me back from the feeling of living death into true life.
I can pinpoint certain moments that were nothing less than miraculous, moments when God stepped in and said “NO.” (The most vivid one was a light suddenly shining in the darkness of West Allentown in 1993 — see Chapter 11 of Darkwater if you want the whole story!) And I can also remember people who wrapped around me each time, people who helped to make room for God to act, and even more helped to remove the shrouds of death that clung to me. I think of congregation members, of friends, of family, who gave me room when I needed it, and who gave me companionship when I needed it.
God can save our lives. God has so many ways of doing that, some through miracles, and some through other people. And sometimes, like the raising of Lazarus, through both. You have a role to play in bringing life to people.
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This coming Friday, I will be speaking at at Alumni Week: Connections Conference, sponsored by the Career Center at my alma mater, Muhlenberg College. I will be on a panel discussing “Path to Publishing/Careers in Writing.” I am grateful to JoEllen Notte for helping to get me connected with this event. And speaking of JoEllen…
A few months ago, I mentioned JoEllen’s book In It Together: Navigating Depression with Partners, Friends, and Family. She sent me a pre-release copy to review, and I wrote this about it:
In It Together is a must-read for anyone who loves someone with mental illness. This easy-to-read handbook for how to show you care about someone with depression is overflowing with honesty, concrete suggestions, and outright hope. JoEllen writes with unquestionable authority on the subject, both as someone who has surveyed and interviewed hundreds of people with depression, and also as someone who has wrestled tenaciously with the voices in her own head. Through personal stories, forthright suggestions, and even “cheat sheets,” she lays out a vision for what healthy, productive relationships might look like, and also provides specific steps for how to get there. If you have a loved one with depression, you may often find yourself asking what to do, what to say, and how to help. In It Together is a powerful, timely and helpful answer to these questions.
It’s now available for purchase. Here’s a link to Amazon, but I’m sure you can find it anywhere books are sold. I highly recommend it!
“My dark days made me strong. Or maybe I already was strong, and they made me prove it.” — Emery Lord