Stephen Smith has written a wonderful book entitled, The Lazarus Life.” I have used material from his book in some of the men’s retreats. The book is about transformation. Transformation is the work of God in our hearts. In the book we are asked to image our soul as being in the tomb similar to Lazarus. Within the souls of men, there are many dark secrets and deep pain that never have seen to light of Jesus. They are have been buried for years. Much of the pain has to do with unresolved grief, which many men mistakely think is anger. The grief comes from not being able to process all the negative responses we have had to lifes situations. We simply we not taught to respond emotionally in a proper and constructive manner. Thus as Christian men we bury our negative emotions and try to be the “Good, niece Christian man.” We make all kinds of efforts to patch up our broken lives, wanting to change for the better. We want to become better fathers, husbands, as well as Christian witnesses in the church, work and community. But the harder we try the more we seem to fail, stumbling over the same bad habits and practices. We pratice what Dallas Willard calls “sin mangement.” We try to manage our spiritual life, trying to change for the good.
What is needed is inner transformation. It cannot be stressed enough, that change begins from the inside out. That is why, so often, when I pray with a man, the image of a tomb or a dark place is present. We are with the one being prayed for in a dark place. Of course, the place is in the soul. We know the darkness, but cannot get beyond the negative effects of that darkness. As we pray, the image of Jesus coming into the darkness becomes very powerful. This is where the Lazarus story is so powerful. Jesus comes into the tombs of our souls, with the voice of tenderness and love, and calls us to come forth. We cannot do it without his help. But when we know that he is there to take us by the hand and bring us out real change is about to happen.
In his book, Smith talkes about walking toward Jesus. Image Lazarus coming out of the tomb. He still had on his graveclothes. He could barely move. He must have stunk badly. Yet he came forth and kept walking toward Jesus. That is what we are given the grace to do – as we keep our eyes on Jesus, we are able to keep walking. It may seem awkward as we stumble with new patterns and practices. But God will give us the grace to change. It is vital that we are patient with the process. The graveclothes have been there for many years. They don’t come off in one day. We have not walked this new way – living in the light and not the old, familiar darkness. It will take time. The important matter is to keep looking to Jesus and walking toward him. Above else don’t stop walking toward Jesus.