Monday, June 18, 2012

Monday Mourning -- Blinded by Grief

In John's gospel, we read the story of Jesus appearing to Mary Magdalene after His resurrection.  Let's pick up the story in the 20th chapter, verse 10...

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, "Woman, 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 it was Jesus.  "Woman," 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 out in Aramaic, "Rabboni!" (which means Teacher).  Jesus said, "Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet returned to the Father.  Go instead to my brothers and tell them, 'I am returning to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.'"  Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news:  "I have seen the Lord!"  And she told them that He had said these things to her.

Did you catch the significance of the part of the passage that I typed in bold print?  Mary was face to face with Jesus, even talking with Him, but she did not even recognize Him.  Not only that, but she was searching for Him!  Wouldn't you think she would recognize Him?

I can remember reading this passage in the years before Hannah's illness and death and wondering how it could be that Mary didn't recognize Jesus.  I figured that her vision must have been clouded with tears, and maybe that was why.  But why didn't she recognize His voice?  Maybe she was just so shocked to see Him that she couldn't believe it was Him.

But now I get it.  Sure, she had tears in her eyes, but that is not what blinded her.  It was the enormity of her grief that made her unable to see her Savior.  Grief can do that to us.  Even if we're searching for Him, even if we're looking right at Him, even if He's speaking to us ... we don't realize it is Him.  Grief can either make us too numb to feel His presence, or it can make us too raw to experience Him.

But Mary didn't stay blinded.  Jesus spoke her name, and immediately a wave of recognition washed over her.  She must have reached out and "hugged His neck" (as we say here in Arkansas), and she clearly did not want to let go.

In the same way, we who have been blinded by grief must remain open to His presence.  Even though it may feel like He is far away, He is right here with us, waiting patiently for us to reach out to Him.  What a comfort in the darkest of times!

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