Then the disciples went back to their homes, but Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot.
They asked her, “women why are you crying?”
“They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put Him.”
At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that is was Jesus.
“Women,” He said, “why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?”
Thinking He was the gardener she said, “Sir if You have carried Him away, tell me where You have put Him, and I will get Him.”
Jesus said to her, “Mary.”
She turned toward Him and cried in Aramiac, “Rabboni!” which means Teacher
I wanted to write this when I had my answer. When the thing I’m believing for had come to pass. I wanted this to all look perfect and sewn up. But that isn’t how life is. That isn’t what faith is like either. Life can be messy and at times painful. It can feel like God has taken a step back, and isn’t as involved as we would like Him to be. Often, for me, it can feel like He goes silent at the most critical moment when I desperately need Him to speak. But I think there is more to it than that.
What if He wanted us to see things differently?
I love to cook. I love the process of chopping and stirring, kneading and sieving. I love learning about new techniques and exploring flavours from different cultures. I love the creative outlet it gives me, but most of all I love the power and heart expressed between people when we put our busy schedules aside, and sit and eat together.
I’ve wanted my own home for a long time - my own kitchen. Somewhere that was ours. Not rented. Not borrowed, but owned. I’ve brought this request to the Lord many times and He has been so gracious to me in the season of waiting. I’ve lived in some beautiful places in the waiting.
But at the end of 2017 He spoke to me. He said, “Rachel turn to 2 Samuel 7:11. This is My Word and promise to you and your family: ‘The Lord declares to you that the Lord Himself will establish a house for you.’”
This was incredibly exciting because it was not a scripture reference I was familiar with, and I knew that it was the Lord, and that He was answering my request.
I took hold of it with both hands. I thanked the Lord for answering me and for His promise. I diligently wrote it out and stuck it to my fridge. Over the next bit of time God spoke several other key scriptures to our family and we prayed, lived and breathed them till they became part of us. We knew God had spoken. We knew He wanted us in a particular area of our town. How He was going to do it all was still a mystery to us, but that was okay with me…sort of.
Months past and there was no sign of a miracle.
A year slipped by.
I knew God was faithful and that His timing was perfect, but maybe He was a bit busy. What with Brexit and Hurricanes and Donald Trump’s tweets; I thought maybe He needed my help to ‘build’ the house He’d promised. After all, wouldn’t it be irresponsible of me if I didn’t find out what properties were for sale in the location He had called us to be planted in?
It’s normal to check Rightmove every hour right?
Before I knew it, my focus was no longer on the One who had given me His Word that He would do it. It was now on house prices and our lack of funds. My anxiety was through the roof.
My husband Steve came to my aid and reminded me that our focus needed to get back on God and what He had said, and off trying to figure out how it was all going to work.
I stopped checking Rightmove - well maybe I looked once a week.
I quieted my heart before the Lord and asked Him to forgive me for trying to control the outcome.
A few weeks later we felt the Lord speak to us about exploring the idea of moving in with my Mother in Law, (I like to call her my Mother in Grace because she is such a gift to me). My Mother in Law lives in a reasonably large property by herself, and in the past we had discussed with her the idea of extending the property in order for us all to live together comfortably. We approached her about the idea and she took time to pray about it, and we all felt and agreed that this was the way forward.
So with that we set about sourcing architects and we got on with designing a wonderful living space.
I Pintrested like a maniac! I now have an encyclopedic knowledge of Farrow & Ball colour swatches and kitchen layouts that make use of both space and light. *eyeroll
It was all coming true, and it was more than I could have asked or dreamt!
We submitted it for planning.
We moved house.
We were denied planning.
Confused? I was.
If I’m honest I was totally devastated. I cried A LOT. I went silent on God, because I felt like I had nothing left to say, and even if I did have something to say, it wasn’t very faith-filled.
Something had died in me – my expectations, my faith, my resolve – I didn’t know what had died, but I felt it.
That was several weeks ago. We are no clearer about the way forward.
HOWEVER, one afternoon my dear friend Sarah messaged me from America. She asked me how things were going and I told her. Sarah and I are like sisters so we don’t beat around the bush when we talk to each other. We don’t do small-talk; we only do heart-talk. I told her I felt like something had died. Her answer blew me away.
“Babe, it may not look like you thought it would. But the outcome will be good because God has spoken! Resurrection is rarely recognizable at first. For crying out loud, Mary thought Jesus was the gardener!”
This was a Holy Spirit moment. A word of wisdom shot from her spirit-man to mine.
Her words woke me up!
Our story wasn’t finished! Just because it didn’t go how I’d planned it, didn’t mean it was the end. It was time to really surrender everything to Jesus and let Him have His way.
I thought about Mary - only days before she had broken open a jar of spice nard and anointed Jesus’ feet with it. That oil represented her livelihood, her wealth, her future and her security. But she poured it all out and held nothing back.
I would love that story to have a note that said, ‘And Jesus gave Mary four more jars of nard back as a reward for her sacrificial act of worship.’ But it doesn’t say that. But she was the first person to see the resurrected Christ, though at first she did not recognise Him.
I took myself to the end of the garden. I wanted to be with Jesus. I needed Him.
“Lord, You told me we would cross over the lake to the other side. You told me I could trust you. You promised to do it. Jesus I don’t understand? I’m sorry I’ve taken myself away from You. Help me to reconnect with Your heart and see with Your eyes.”
I closed my eyes and saw my hands cupped together and outstretched. They were bubbling over with boiling, churning water. It was raging like a storm in my hands and I could barely keep hold of it.
I knew straight away that it represented everything that I had hoped the house would be. The turmoil was all of my plans, all of my control, all of my longing and all of my disappointment.
Jesus spoke to my heart.
“Rachel, empty your hands. Pour it out at My feet. The good, the bad and the ugly! Give it all to Me.”
I thought again about Mary and how she hadn’t recognised Jesus. How is that possible? She had been so devoted to Him. Could it be that in my disappointment I had stopped recognising Jesus too?
It’s funny how grief, disappointment, offence and anger can affect how we see things. The disciples saw an empty tomb, turned and went home. Mary saw the angels in the tomb, but even in that supernatural interaction her focus was still on death and loss.
When Mary first sees the resurrected Christ she sees nothing familiar and demotes Jesus to gardener. I love that He asks her, “Why are you crying?” Jesus knew that there was more to the story than death and an empty tomb.
He then asks Mary, “Who is it that you are looking for?”
I believe that Jesus is challenging Mary’s faith. Similar to when Jesus asked Peter, “Who do you say I am?”
I believe He is asking the same question today. “Who is it that you are looking for?”
Are you looking for something or someone you’ve lost? Are you looking for someone to help you live feeling a bit better than you do right now; but if you’re honest you’ve given up hope of ever being completely healed?
As we stand in our own graveyards, by the tombs of our disappointment, grief, offence, anger and pain, have we stopped recognising Jesus Christ Messiah!
Have we made Him small? Have we demoted Him to gardener?
Mary stood in front of the empty tomb, with the Resurrected Christ right in front of her and she still didn’t get it! I wonder how many of us are missing the new incorruptible, abundant life Jesus has for us, because we are still grieving the old. How many of us are so immersed in our own sadness or self-pity that we have downsized Jesus’ ability, or desire to free us and heal to a “maybe?”
I know I had.
It was only when Jesus called Mary by name that she turned towards Him and she saw who He really was.
I may not know what will happen with regards to our home, but I know in my heart that my heavenly Father is faithful and He calls me by my name. All I have to do is turn towards Him.
Don’t be afraid to let go of the control. Don’t be afraid to pour the waters of your heart out at His feet. The good, the bad and the ugly! He is our safest place. Some things in our lives need to die, in order for us to experience the resurrection life of Jesus. I promise you He is faithful!
This is not the end of the story…