Today’s Text and Thought of Encouragement:
“And out walked the man (Lazarus) who had been dead, his hands and feet wrapped in burial cloths, and with a (burial) napkin bound around his face, Jesus said to them, ‘Free him of the burial wrappings and let him go.’”
John 11: 44
“One of the greatest hindrances to imagining possibilities is…obstacles (which) appear larger and more ominous than they are, keeping us preoccupied with trying to avoid danger rather than discerning alternatives.”
Professor of Homiletics and
Wake Forest University School of Divinity
Thoughts for Consideration:
How do I think I would have perceived the death of my brother had I been Mary and Martha?
Once my brother had died, what impediments would I have believed lay in the way of changing the fact of his death?
“Don’t be obsessed with the idea that there is only one possibility. If you think so, there is only one.”
Katherine Butler Hathaway
“Perception :” The act of becoming aware, directly through the senses. To observe by hearing or seeing. To achieve understanding.
“Distortion:” The act of twisting out of proportion or shape. To contort to give a false or misleading account. A factual misrepresentation.
When I was in Elementary School, one of our favorite games was hop-scotch. For those of you who may never have played this childhood test of skill, it involves players tossing a small object into numbered squares or spaces outlined on the ground, usually with chalk. Then each player takes turns jumping through the spaces to retrieve the object. One day while playing this game with friends, we noted that because of the way the sun was shining down on us, our bodies were casting shadows on the ground. I might add, what became so interesting was that our shadows were much longer and thinner than our bodies. And like so many youngsters, we decided that while playing one game, we had come up with a new game. For nearly an hour we were completely entertained trying to make strange dark shadow forms of our bodies on the ground.
Fortunately we quickly recognized the fact that those shadows in no way correctly portrayed how we really looked. And so we finally went back to our original game of hop-scotch where our agility could better control the game’s outcome.
Interestingly, adulthood has driven home the point to me that more often than not, we find we are lured into situations where the perceptions we have or develop about an event become profoundly distorted. The fact is that people who study such things have even named this “condition”, if I can label it. We refer to incorrectly identifying something through our senses as a “perceptual disorder.” Simply described, it means that what my senses tell me, may not actually be correctly observed by hearing or seeing, to the point that I may give a false misrepresentation of what’s truly happening.
What I find so important as I studied about “perceptual distortion,” is that it doesn’t just affect our everyday view of what is around us. It can also be extremely destructive to our spiritual lives. A perfect example is played out at the tomb of Jesus’ dear friend Lazarus beginning with the fact that Jesus delayed His arrival to His sick friend’s bed until after Lazarus was dead and buried. If I were to allow my “perceptual distortion” to twist Jesus’ behavior, I could come to the erroneous conclusion that Jesus didn’t really love Lazarus after all. That He didn’t care whether His friend lived or died. That’s not all! When all of Lazarus’ family and friends were gathered at the rock tomb, a distorted perception wouldn’t have even allowed me to entertain the thought that Jesus could do something so amazingly out-of-this-world as to raise Lazarus from the dead. You see, if I hadn’t seen Jesus perform such a miracle, it would have most likely never entered my mind that He could do something that unsuspecting. What’s more, it would never have been feasible for me to pen these words by the great writer George Eliot: “The world is full of hopeful analogies and handsome, dubious eggs, called possibilities.” Rather than taking what appeared to be a tragically painful situation and looking for the positive potential in it, I’d have come to the same conclusion as all the crowd, that poor Lazarus was long-gone. As Professor Veronice Miles, in her commentary on the events at the tomb describes, the “obstacles appeared larger and more ominous than they were.” And thus, in your life and mine, our “perceptual distortion” has the ability to “keep us preoccupied trying to avoid (what we ‘believe’ to be) danger rather than discerning alternatives.” Professor Miles then goes on to point out that, “the disciples have been Jesus’ constant companions throughout His ministry, traveling with Him from one village, town, and mountainous region to the next, yet they often appear more concerned with situational limitations than with the restorative possibility of resurrection and life.” The possibility that Lazarus’ illness and death could be anything but a tragedy or a failing on the part of Jesus to intervene on time, wasn’t a thought which entered the minds of all those who were at the tomb. That is except Jesus. How thankful I am that whenever we bump headlong into a situation that we’ve scribbled “impossibility” all over, Jesus has already entered the situation, sized it up and recognized, without one doubt, how God’s radiant glory will be shown through all that transpires. As the author Anne Lamott puts it, “When God is going to do something wonderful, He always starts with a hardship; when God is going to do something amazing, He starts with an impossibility.” And in my opinion, watching a dead-man shuffle his way out of a hole in a rock, still wrapped in burial linens with a burial napkin bound around his face, as the Apostle John writes about what he saw, certainly meets my definition of “amazingly impossible.”
Now just look at your life today. Why not ask the question, “Is there something going on in my world that meets the “it’s impossible” criteria?” Well, here’s some advice from a former dead man whose family and friends are busily unwrapping him and tossing the burial linens to the ground. Their perception has changed – 360 degrees. Their distorted view of what Jesus can’t do has been turned on its head. The Resurrection and Life is in Bethany and death doesn’t stand a chance of capturing another victim on this day!
“When one door closes another door opens; but we so often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the ones which open for us.”
Alexander Graham Bell
“Make me understand the way of Your precepts…Remove from me the way of falsehood and unfaithfulness to You…Teach me, O Lord, the way of Your statutes…Give me understanding.”
Psalm 119: 27, 29, 33, 34
“Jesus my Teacher, guide me along Your way, and help me to piece together the jigsaw of life in Your kingdom. When I make decisions, lead me to the heart of the matter, and when I face conflict, do not let my own panic drown out the still, small voice of Your wisdom.”
“Lord, give us wisdom before we speak,
understanding while we listen,
sensitivity towards those we meet,
and the perspective of Your kingdom.”
John L. Bell
Dorothy Valcárcel, Author
When A Woman Meets Jesus
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