This afternoon I was trying to remember the lyrics of a song called “Stay With Me” and so I Googled it. Google came up with 7 songs for me. Not 7 versions of the same song, 7 different songs. Apparently the concept of begging someone to stay, often against you better judgment or even best interest, is quite common.
I begged a friend to stay with me one night. I was scared half to death. I wasn’t a kid either. I had a dream the night before that so vivid and so terrifying that I really couldn’t tell if it was a dream or some horrifying memory. My friend came over to my house to talk me down and it helped a little, but I just knew I would never be able to fall asleep all alone in the house that night. So she stayed in the guest room and lo and behold I did get to sleep. I felt pretty much the same way the next day, but she refused to stay the night again even though I’m sure I begged. I had to face my fear and learn to sleep alone.
Life can be such a scary business. We are afraid of all kinds of things that probably aren’t ever going to happen or going to hurt us. We are also afraid of things that could easily happen and easily hurt us. But for me, the worst are those things that I never saw coming. Maybe I should have seen them coming, but I didn’t.
Death can be like that. Deep down we know that we are all going to die someday and so is everyone we know and love. It’s part of what it means to be human. No one lives forever, but facing death can be one of the hardest things to endure in life.
The 11th chapter of the Gospel of John is the story of the death of Lazarus and how Jesus arrived too late to keep him from dying, but then called Lazarus out of the tomb after he had been in there for four days. John 11:44 tells us, “The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with strips of cloth, and his face wrapped in a cloth. Jesus said to them, ‘Unbind him, and let him go.'”
When he died, Lazarus had been bound up like a mummy and sealed into a tomb. When Jesus called him to come out into the land of the living, he obeyed and stumbled out of the tomb still bound with strips of cloth. Then Jesus told the bystanders to turn Lazarus loose.
When someone leaves us, often our first instinct is to hold on to them, to keep them with us, to beg them to stay, to refuse to let them go. When they have left, we have little recourse but to go on living without them. Our only choice is to follow them into death, either figuratively or literally.
Jesus did not send people to follow Lazarus into the tomb. He called Lazarus out among the living and told them to let Lazarus go. Life will never be the same, but it will go on.