A few years ago I was given the opportunity to interview for a job in Knoxville, Tennessee. The job was pretty similar to the one I have now, although as you can assume, a bit different in exact population, needs etc., simply given the diversity between the areas of Knoxville and Los Angeles.
This is also the first and I pray to God, only time I have ever cried in a job interview.
The interview started out fairly normal; we toured the facility and chatted with some of the sweetest folks I have ever met in the field of caring for the homeless. We then sat down to talk. Our conversation started out typical, discussed strength, weaknesses, goals, etc.
Mid-sentence on the different models of homeless care however, I glanced over and became distracted by a small painting to the right of me. The painting was clearly of a person tending to another, although it was somewhat abstract in its form. I interrupted myself and commented on the painting, asking about its origin. My interviewer, Bruce, explained to me that a patron of the non-profit had made it some years back. This woman, as he explained, was very mentally ill, but when she painted it was as though she was free. Free from confusion, from anger, from disillusionment. Life made sense when she was painting.
Bruce went on to explain that this particular painting was a depiction of the biblical story about Lazarus. (John 11:1-43) In this story, although petitioned to heal him, Jesus allows a man that he deeply cares about to die. He weeps with Lazarus’ family and mourns his loss…and then raises him from the dead, displaying his divinity. The last statement in the story reads, “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.”
“That was the part of the story that meant most to her,” Bruce explained, “Lazarus was alive and completely healed, but he still needed help. He still needed to be unbound before he’d really be free. Just like us; we can heal, we can be made new, we can be freed from pain and injustice but we can’t do it alone.”
And that’s when it happened. It started slow, with what I thought was a measly lump in my throat, but when I tried to respond they came.
Lots of them.
We sat for what felt like an eternity as I humbly pulled myself together and eventually was able to continue on with interview. Bruce was amazing and laughed along with me as I joked about my inability to control my emotions.
To this day that story touches my heart in a way that it never had before seeing that painting and learning where it came from. It’s not rare for me to hear about Lazarus in church and tear up. I think about it often when I am caring for one of my residents or when I myself am being cared for by a friend. It’s a beautiful picture of what I believe I am called to do in this life; unbind and be unbound, in the name of Love.
It never ended up working out for me to move to Knoxville, L.A. life got in the way, but that trip changed me and that place still holds a very special place in my heart – not for the brick roads, the Smokey Mountains or the friends I have living there, (although quite important) but rather because while in Knoxville, I met Lazarus.
4 thoughts on “Meeting Lazarus.”
Beautiful story. Our pastor often uses that Bible passage to discuss that when “dead” people come into our church and meet the one who raises from the dead, that for a while a they are going to look and smell like they did when they were dead. It’s our responsibility to love them the way that Christ would have us love them (not just the way that WE think we should love them) and unbind them and let them go. Great story. Love the blog and always look forward to reading it.
Thank you, Mark!
And thank you for sharing that analogy — that is really powerful. It is really easy to hear that story and picture Lazarus coming out all clean, shiny and smelling fresh, but I think we miss a lot of the humility, love and grace when we don’t account for the mess.
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Thank you for the sweet compliment!