Unbind and Let Go
“Lazarus is dead,” Jesus tells the disciples. It’s not hard to imagine the questions that might be running through the minds of the disciples and the hearts of Mary and Martha. They are the same kind of questions we ask ourselves and each other whenever life is interrupted and changed in ways we do not want, when circumstances show us just how difficult, fragile, and beautiful life really is. “Why? How could this happen? What’s next for me? Is this an ending or a beginning? Could it be both? How do I move forward? How do I make sense of what has happened? What will life be like now? Is there life after this? Why didn’t God do something?” Every time life sets before us those kind of questions we are reminded that we live with more questions than answers, and the answers we do have no longer seem to carry the weight and authority they once did. Our lives are filled with unanswered questions.
The unanswered questions of life tend to leave us confused and disappointed. Disappointment is always wrapped up in and bound by our unmet expectations. That’s where Mary and Martha are in today’s gospel. They are disappointed and confused. “Lord, if only you had been here, my brother would not have died.” Our ‘if only’ longings are ultimately about the past, our dislike of what is or our fear of something new. We want to preserve what was and keep things the way they’ve always been. Almost always they come from a place of sorrow and loss, regret, failure, or disappointment. The illusion of “if only” wraps around our lives like grave clothes. We use it to try to bind up what has fallen apart, preserve what is decaying, and tie us to what has been lost.
Jesus does not offer answers or explanations to Mary and Martha, or to us. Instead, he uses our confusion as “an agency for transformation” (David Whyte). Confusion asks us to reassess ourselves and our inner world. It is the first step in freeing us from misguided assumptions. It opens our eyes to a deeper way of seeing. “Unbind and let go.” Every time we refuse to live an “if only” life, we unbind the past and let it go. Unbinding and letting go of the past are not a rejection but an offering. We do not reject the past, throw it away, or deny its value and importance to us. Instead, we free it to be made new, to be given new life, to become a new creation.
Michael Marsh. Adapted