I remember when I first got the boys; there was a sense of excitement and promise-fulfillment. You see, God told me in January to start preparing to take in my brothers. So I did what any normal, single, twenty-three year old with a promise would do: I started praying for my ducks to align. I started praying for my husband to come, I started telling every guy that showed an interest in me what my plans were…just so they knew what they were getting themselves into and they could run away like Rex from veggies; I started praying and seeking for opportunities overseas, or, at least, out of state…or even out of Orange County…just anywhere but here.
And then, in May, a phone call at three a.m. forever changed my life. It was nowhere near anticipated. I never thought things with my mom were as bad as I’ve come to find out they were; and I would have never expected an accident, hospital, and death would all be factors in getting the boys. Sometimes, I think we believe the promises to be fulfilled by easy an beautiful things-by our own strength and talents fitting somewhere in the equation and a lack of grieving tears. But, the truth is, the flood of tears that spread down my face onto a hospital bed surely ushered in the most Holy of Holies into this experienced. They were like the red carpet for the promise to come through.
And I think of Joseph, spending years in prison for something he didn’t do, forgotten by the fellow inmate he prophesied over and encouraged; betrayed by his brothers, forgotten by his friends, misunderstood by his chief…and he had been given a promise.
And I think of John in prison, after Jesus had been introduced and sent word, in language only John would understand, that the Messiah is he…but the problem was that John was in prison. Surely, this is not how God intended his promise to be fulfilled?
And I remember myself, sitting on the rooftop in India-hearing the Lord say to me “Sally, this is the year of Jubilee.” Months later, through my swollen eyes and tired bones, I prayed, “how, Lord, could this be the year of Jubilee?"
Sometimes, jubilee looks much different than we envision it to be.
And I fear in sharing this with you, because I do not want you to misunderstand the grieving of the first few months as anything less than a gift. I experience beauty in the heartache. And I see Jesus more clearly in the times where the fire seems to almost consume me, and the waves seem close to pounding me down. Yes, I see Jesus so much more clearly.
But the promises I felt spoken over me, by God, by people, through visions, through words-none of them are happening the way I thought they would.
And, on this Palm Sunday, where I am reminded that the king people anticipated to be was actually a Servant King, unlike any had anticipated, I remember Mary.
Now on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb…
She ran and told the disciples; they ran to check the tomb; they saw she was right and went home…but Mary stayed.
And Mary weeped. She saw the tomb and it was empty. She weeped, and saw that the promises that her God, her Rabboni had been teaching her about for the past three years were all of a sudden dead and gone.
The tomb was empty. The promise was gone.
And then, the angel spoke: Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?
Mary begs this mystery man to show her where they had taken the Promise. Please, just tell me where he is, I will bring him back myself. She was beside herself in grief, in anguish, pain, misunderstanding.
And finally, the Lord spoke her name. And her eyes were opened. And the Promise was standing before her, alive again. And she ran back to the disciples to tell them "I have seen the Lord."
The tomb wasn’t empty.
And my tomb isn’t empty.
And your tomb isn’t empty. The promises of God still rest in those dark caves that seem to vacant. But sometimes, we just need the Teacher to cup our face with his hands and say our name and remind us that the tomb isn’t empty. Our eyes just aren’t able to see, and our hearts just aren’t able to understand how His Promise is fulfilled.
And this is jubilee. And this is what we’ve been waiting for.
And sometimes, I fall on my knees at the empty tomb. And I wail and weep in confusion. I don’t understand where the promise went. But then I hear my Teacher speak and my name escapes his lips, and I lift up my face from the dirt, and I see the Promise, again.
And I am reminded again that my tomb is not empty.