Hold Still & Be Set Free
The following is a letter from Guiding Light Executive Director Brian Elve and an excerpt from our May Guiding Light Newsletter.
We often try to avoid the things that make us feel uncomfortable: topics, ideas, or actions that might take us to a scary and vulnerable place, such as DEATH. Most of the men in the recovery program were living a figurative death before coming here, controlled by their substance of choice and delusional thinking. A literal death is a too-familiar reality for those living in addiction.
I want to jump into a story most of you probably know: the story of Lazarus in John 11. He was the brother of Mary and Martha, and a friend of Jesus. Lazarus is sick, and his sisters send word to Jesus to come quick so He can heal Lazarus. Jesus gets the message, but decides to stay where he is for a few more days. When he’s ready, he tells those with him, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but now I will go and wake him up.” Jesus means Lazarus is dead. When I hear this part of the story, the words Jesus says, I think of the life lived in addiction: Asleep. We were asleep to the impact we were having on others, asleep to what was actually happening, asleep to what mattered, trying to deaden our pain and as a result we were dead to joy and asleep to reality. True recovery is about how to live life after the drugs and alcohol, after you wake up from your addiction.
This is the difficult part—it requires transformation! When Jesus arrives, Lazarus is not only dead but dead for days, his body is wrapped up in burial clothes, and he is in a tomb. “Jesus calls in a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come out!’ The dead man comes out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face. Jesus said to the people standing nearby, ‘Unwrap him and let him go. When we hear Lazarus has been raised to life, it’s easy to miss the last words of the story: The part where Jesus is standing back while Lazarus is smelly and bound up, alive but standing there like a mummy. Jesus performs the miracle of waking Lazarus up, yet calls the community to finish the work of setting him fr ee. Jesus’ instructions to the people around Lazarus were, “Unbind him and let him go.”
Lazarus does not get restored to life clean, pretty and free. He stinks. Lazarus is still wrapped up in grave clothes and he can’t get out of them. He’s alive and he’s STUCK. Together we can face the reality of how dirty this life gets because we are called to community—and not just community, but a community that sets each other free of the trappings of our old life, the hang ups, the blind spots, the ego and pride, getting each other unstuck and freed to live. This unwrapping, this freedom, after being raised from death to life is a life-long process.
This points to the absolute necessity of a community where we are willing and able to face reality together while unwrapping each other from our grave clothes. Are we willing to hold still and be set free? So as you go on with your day, maybe look around you with new eyes, seeing each other as risen from the dead and in need of a little unwrapping.
Brian Elve, Executive Director of Guiding Light