The emperor's new clothes

That month of waiting, as May turned into June in my first year of cancer, still weighs heavy in my memory. Cancer in some ways seemed like an awakening, as if the Holy Spirit that I had inoculated myself against finally reached critical mass and began stirring inside in ways I could not ignore. Along with cancer awoke a dream for my life, a vision of the person I might become, goals and ideas that I'd never lent time to consider.
And when He had said these things, He cried out with a loud voice, "Lazarus, come forth." He who had died came forth, bound hand and foot with wrappings; and his face was wrapped around with a cloth. Jesus said to them, "Unbind him, and let him go." (John 11:43-44)
I read this, and think, there were a few possible options here. It seems a bit absurd that Lazarus emerges still mummified in his grave clothes. They probably stunk, for one thing. For another, could this poor guy even see where he was going? Then Jesus commands the confounded family and friends to unbind the man - naked beneath - and let him go. Somehow I doubt they came to the tomb with fresh clothes for the dead relative they came to mourn.

Jesus, who raised him from the dead, certainly had the power to command the stinky wrappings to drop as Lazarus stood up for the first time since his death days before. But instead He allows the dead to rise wrapped in the reminder of that very death - the grave clothes and the cloying spices used to preserve the body in those days.

I am the same. He resurrected when He gave me new life...salvation from my sins. But the grave clothes clung, the spices still wafting pungent...shame, self-righteousness, old views about myself and about God, the tendency to seek after pleasure and joy in places that will never fulfill the hidden depths of my heart. As the years go by, He desires me to throw off those stinky old wraps, the vestiges of my death, now a thing of the past. This journal has been a safe place to become aware of the grave clothes still clinging, to begin the process of unwrapping.

Have you ever injured yourself and experienced the tangible fear that comes when removing the bandage for the first time? What will the broken limb look like, what about the stitches, or the old blood, or the decaying layers of skin? Have you paused as you imagined the pain of ripping the bandage, now embedded, from the sore wound? Wrinkled your nose to avoid smelling skin that hasn't been bathed in a week or a month or two? This is what it's like to take off grave clothes that have clung for a lifetime to your soul. Character traits that have been part of you so long you thought they were an integral part of you, not something you could throw aside. Yet Jesus says that we can throw aside those parts of ourselves that do not reflect Him - sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry...anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips - and put on His character like a set of new clothes.Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. (from Colossians 3)

Just think. This is the the solution every person who bought a self-help book in the past was really looking for. But applying the knowledge here if you don't know Jesus, don't have the Holy Spirit living in you and renewing you, is as futile as trying to improve your sense of self-worth while you stay with the man who beats you to a pulp every day. You've got to get a new boyfriend. His name is Jesus. He is the Lover of your soul, and the perfecter of the weak, and the source for everything you've been searching for. If you're still battling the abuse of a love affair with yourself, or trying to emerge from addiction, anger, low self-esteem, loneliness...even if you think you're doing pretty well, but you keep hearing about Jesus and wondering what in the world I'm talking about: believe. Just choose it. Then trust Him to perfect the work He begins in you. (Philippians 1:6)

Here are a few verses for you to consider, and to enjoy if you have already accepted God's free gift of salvation:

Believe on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and you shall be saved. (Acts 16:31)

I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life. (I John 5:13)

Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God's wrath remains on him. (John 3:36)

I noticed recently that some versions of the Bible change the word in the familiar John 3:16 from "shall" to "might". I want you to see the difference between the two:

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

"Might" seems so much less certain than "shall".

If you have questions regarding what I've written today, please contact me. I am putting my e-mail address right here, on the world wide web for anyone to see. Email me at

***a humble repost from the archives of 2010, during some of the very darkest days of my whole life, following our painful leavetaking from a beloved church