Jesus Raged.

When someone that you fiercely love dies, the calendar becomes a minefield. You learn to clumsily tiptoe around explosions of grief, shattered again and again as you unearth new depths of loss. You grit your teeth and lurch forward as you absorb the splitting ache of birthdays and Christmas mornings and family pictures with one missing face. You get out of bed and pretend that you haven’t been sliced open and hollowed out as maddeningly, inexplicably, the world spins on even when your little brother isn’t there to blow out 25 birthday candles. You drive your car and walk into meetings and send emails as though life as you once knew it hasn’t burned to ashes around you.

In John 11, Mary’s world burns down. Her brother dies, and she collapses at the feet of Jesus heaving with visceral, shuddering sobs. I close my eyes, and I can hear her choke out her question—where were you? If you’d been here, He’d still be alive. She’d watched Lazarus fall sick, watched his skin turn pale and translucent and his face grow gaunt. She’d held the midnight watch as he gasped for breath—and she’d KNOWN that Jesus could save him. She’d been certain of it—her face fierce with belief, she’d clenched her brother’s hand tightly and told him hang on, Jesus is coming. But, Jesus hadn’t come. Ragged and desperate, perhaps she’d cradled her brother’s face as took one, final, rasping breath—screaming for a Jesus that was nowhere in sight.

I’ve been there.

Jesus comes too late. Lazarus isn’t just gone—he’s been buried. Mary collapses under the trauma and grief of watching her brother die, of kissing his cheek one last time and watching neighbors carry his lifeless body into a waiting tomb. She stares up at Jesus and says precisely what I would have said: you could have stopped it. You could have done something. You could have made him better—you could have prevented all of this but YOU WEREN’T HERE. You weren’t here. You weren’t here.

She collapses under the impossible weight of it, at the feet of the One who could have healed her brother with a word.

I’ve read the story a thousand times, but until recently, I’d missed what has become inexpressibly dear to me.

As it turns out, our English translation of the original text is pale and anemic—a black and white recounting of a technicolor scene. I’ve always known that Jesus wept–but I had no idea he’d also raged.

The text tells us that when Jesus saw Mary collapse, he was “deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled.” But the original Greek word there actually means “to quake with rage.” Jesus stares down at Mary and He’s livid. In verse 38, as Jesus walks toward the tomb we read that He was “deeply moved”—but the original Greek word actually means “to roar or snort with anger, like a lion or bull.” Tim Keller tells us that the best translation here would be, “Bellowing with anger, He came to the tomb.”

Bellowing. Jesus is INCENSED. He’s so furious that he’s physically shaking. His nostrils are flaring and He’s roaring out with rage—thundering at the entrance to the tomb. Crying out with the heartbroken sisters.

There aren’t words for how deeply this makes me love him–how much his rage and grief endear Jesus to me. He is not removed or callous or numb—he is as close as their breath, shouldering the splitting ache with them.

Jesus isn’t angry with Mary or the other mourners—he’s enraged with death itself. He despises it. He’s enraged by the decay that sin has wrought on the world, wrought on the brokenhearted sisters he dearly loves. Every fiber of his being LOATHES death—and he’s ready to lay down his very life to undo it.

Today would have been my little brother’s 25th birthday. Jesus hates Ian’s death with me—he aches with me–but more than that, Jesus died so that in the midst of grief I could cling to hope, knowing full well that death is not the end of the story for any who call him Lord.

Happy birthday, baby brother. I miss you so much–and I can’t wait to see you again.

Burn the Capes: A Plea for Authenticity

Can I tell you the single most encouraging thing that anyone has ever told me about marriage? I was a newlywed sitting at a friend’s kitchen table, without the foggiest idea of what a honeymoon phase might look like. Kellan and I had made a violent crash landing into “I do” in the wake of my brother’s death, and wedded bliss was proving to be a slow death of expectations I hadn’t even known I had. We were fighting. Ugly, visceral, unhinging fights that sometimes ended with us in separate bedrooms. Crushed by the grief of losing my brother and the cavernous loneliness that threatened to swallow me whole, I felt unraveled.

Constraints of the English language make it impossible to explain how desperately humiliated I was that happily ever after was just…hard. We were newlyweds, after all. I didn’t know a lot about marriage, but I knew that we were supposed to be wrapped up in a state of almost narcotic bliss—breaking from crazy bunny rabbit sex only for electrolytes and power naps. Then, you know, back to sex.

One defiantly sunny afternoon found me sitting at my friend’s kitchen table. I find that when miracles happen, it’s most often at kitchen tables—and somehow, I mustered the trembling courage to blurt out how deeply, irrevocably, desperately sad I was. I told her about gulping back sobs on the couch, the seeming complete inability to understand each other, the sleeping in different rooms. The miracle? She looked me straight in the eyes and said, Oh girl, sometimes I’m so mad at my husband we STILL sleep in different rooms. Me too.

Me too. She’d been there—she’d slept in her guest room and been desperately wounded and said a hundred thousand things she wished she could take back—just like me. In a sentence, I wasn’t alone anymore.

I exhaled for the first time in months as an immense weight slipped off of my exhausted shoulders.

Shame creates wincing, jaded isolationists. We’re all convinced that we’re the only ones with bitter disappointments and broken marriages, the only ones who believe that God is good, but quietly wonder is he really good to me? Somehow, we’ve convinced ourselves that the Instagram story is the real story, and we’re alone clumsily navigating a post Genesis 3 world.

We’re pretending, and it’s laughable. There is no piece of any of our lives that hasn’t been touched by sin—nothing that isn’t in desperate need of resurrection.

In a world full of Supermen, what we really need is more people who will take off their capes and exercise the outrageous courage that it takes to be Clark Kent. We need real people who lean hard into our question marks and unfinished stories—who step with us into uncertainty and heartbreak and fear. I can think of no greater generosity someone could offer me than to tell me the real story of who they are, and what God is doing. We need people who will walk with us through crushing heartbreak, through days in marriage when we wake up and wonder what on earth we’ve done, through seasons when work and parenting and relationships make us want to walk outside and scream forever. We need people who will say, me too, and be the actual hands and feet of Jesus to us.

The magic of telling the truth is that it creates space for other people to do the same thing. Authentic community requires mutual sharing of brokenness, and it is hard and holy and wildly redemptive.

I have discovered an inexhaustible reservoir of hope in the mutual sharing of brokenness, because there is deeper magic afoot: we are resurrection people. Believers, we’ve staked our whole lives on a God who is in the business of bringing dead things back to life and we believe that there is under the sun that He cannot redeem and restore. Sharing the real stories of who we are allows us to point each other to our infinite source of hope and help—to hold up each other’s arms and beg together for the grace to keep doing the next brave thing. Life is a group activity, and we need each other.

God has performed actual miracles in my life through the hands and words and kitchen tables of people who have hung up their capes and told me the truth—about themselves, and about me. People who have stood with me, believed with me, listened to me, sobbed with me, been gracious to me. People who have showed up on my doorstep double-fisting pitchers of apple cider sangria, and prayed with faith and expectancy and courage when all I felt was fear and dread.

Church is not something we do—it’s who we are to each other and to a watching world that doesn’t need one more Christian pretending that everything is fine.

Let’s burn the capes.

A Word to the Church After the Election.

    Elmina Castle is a popular tourist stop in the African country of Ghana, with a dark history. Elmina Castle was one of the biggest trading posts for slaves in the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade centuries ago. It is estimated that over … [Continue reading]

On Gift-Giving, and Being Terrible at It.

Let's be brutally honest with each other: you're either good at giving gifts, or you’re just NOT. It’s kind of like having a nice butt—while there are certainly things that we can do to help ourselves along, at the end of the day we’re all pretty … [Continue reading]

On the Season of Perpetual Hope.

Growing up in Eastern Europe, I spent a lot of time in old, Gothic churches dripping with concrete saints and steeples that spiraled endlessly up towards the sky. I’ve learned to squint and search for the sketches of faded frescoes tucked away behind … [Continue reading]

On Coupons and Capital Murder.

I'll tell you about the first time that it happened. We were newlyweds. Knowing that I loathe trips to the grocery store, Kellan had offered to go with me. Our cart quickly filled, and we made our merry way to the checkout line where we innocently … [Continue reading]