When I woke up the next morning and there was no Ethan and no revelation from heaven, the pain of disappointment threatened to sever me in two. I felt more broken that morning than I ever remember feeling. I tried to get ready for work, but it would seem I was powerless to stop the flood of tears rushing from me in my anguish.
The grief of loss is one thing, but to feel there was no sure place to stand in God anymore was a grief entirely too overwhelming for my finite soul.
I felt so small, so alone, so broken. I had to go to work without any makeup because I could not get the tears to stop for even a moment. It was ridiculous. I cried all the way to work and then sat in my truck and tried to collect myself enough to go in, but it was to no avail. As soon as I almost had myself under control, I would think of the clarity to which I heard and saw the things of the LORD the night before. He had opened the eyes of my heart to… to what? To let me down? To crush my spirit? To leave me feeling more empty then ever?
I was a complete and utter mess, but somehow I made it though the morning of work. As lunch time neared, I got a text message from Ethan’s dad. He was in town and he said he wanted to talk to me about something if I had time over my lunch break.
I met him at Starbucks, we sat outside as he attempted to break the ice with a little bit of small talk, but I could tell there was something burning inside of him. Finally, he said, “Makaila, I want to talk to you about the power of God.”
“Okay,” I said, not sure how to respond to that.
“If God is the creator of the heavens and the earth, and nothing is impossible for Him. Then He can bring Ethan back to life. I know its been 40 some days and we’ve already buried his body, but none of that is enough to stop God. It would be easy for Him.”
I nodded. So far, there wasn’t anything for me to argue with from a biblical standpoint, as much as I was not sure my soul could take the direction this conversation was going.
“People keep telling me to stop praying for resurrection because it isn’t going to happen, but why?” he said. “If God were to bring Ethan back to live out a full life here, it would in no way jeopardize his eternity with God. He would still get that too. And think of the way it would glorify God and build faith.”
Still sound logic coming from a biblical perspective. Images of Jesus raising the widow’s son on the funeral pyre, and Jarius’s daughter, and His friend, Lazuraus were running through my mind like scenes from a movie.
I was never one for drawing attention to myself and creating a spectacle, but as I thought through these images of Jesus, I realized that He often times was. He wasn’t afraid to demonstrate power strong enough to terrify.
And then I thought of my prayer the night before as I wondered if it was loving to ask Jesus to bring someone back to life. And suddenly I realized that if it wasn’t loving, if it wasn’t a kingdom thing, then Jesus wouldn’t have done it so many times, and told His disciples to do it too.
“I just have been thinking about how much we limit what we believe God will do,” he went on to say, “His love is powerful. Powerful enough to do anything, anything He wants.”
I nodded, contemplating this, and prayed, LORD, what are you doing here? Why are you stirring all this up? What are you trying to accomplish?
“Well,” I finally said to my friend, “you have given me a lot to think about. I had a rather rattling encounter with God myself last night. It seems He wants me to remember that He can do more than make me okay in all of this. But what exactly do you think He will do?” I swallowed and mustered my courage, “Do you think He will bring Ethan back?”
“I know He can,” he said with firm conviction, “but will He?” He heaved a sigh, “I’ll admit, its very hard to fathom.”
I nodded again, wondering what role faith would play in this. And what exactly was faith anyways?
I left that lunch meeting feeling stronger, contemplative, curious. I could feel God in this, but what if we were misunderstanding what it was that He was trying to tell us. I didn’t want to get this one wrong. I wanted to find the path that God was cutting. I wanted to partner with Him to bring as much life out of Ethan’s death as was possible, but was this where it was going to be found? The stakes were very high. I would need to learn a lot more boldness, and find a lot more courage if this was the path the LORD was cutting to victory.
What do you want me to do, LORD? I prayed.
“Worship,” He said.
And so I did. I turned on worship music and kept it on all day. I got lost in the worship, finding my home there again.
“Nothing will separate you from my love,” He told me.
And this gave a me rock on which I could stand a little taller, a little stronger, a little bolder. If nothing was going to separate me from God, then maybe I had all the security I needed to take this huge risk and ask again for God to bring Ethan back to life.
Of course, I thought of little else that day and into the next. By the following evening, I decided to bounce all this off a another friend of mine to see what she thought of it.
I timidly divulged everything to her. I told her about my encounter with Jesus and His words, the verses He had led me to. I told her about what Ethan’s father had shared with me while at Starbucks. And then I waited for her to reel me in, to turn the volume down, to talk some sense into me. I was used to this friend trying to protect me from disappointment, so I thought I knew how she would respond, but I was wrong.
“God has been leading me to pray the same way,” she had said, somewhat timidly.
“What?!” I asked, astounded, “You mean you believe God has led you to pray for Ethan to come back to life?”
“Yes,” she said. “It started with a vision that came while I was praying on the night of the accident. And since, when I asked God to help me understand why He gave me that vision, He lead me to the story in scripture when Elijah raises the widow’s son.”
This was a most unexpected response.
I told her, “I think I need to pray about this for awhile.”
I was a bit shaken by the fact that there were at least three of us who had felt God leading us to pray for Ethan to be raised from the dead, even still, 40 some days after his death. Remember, I was the same double-minded character who had been a slave to fear back when I had my man with me, loving me. I was afraid even when there was nothing to fear. Now here I was trying to risk my heart when it seemed I had everything to fear.
Some might think that I had nothing to lose in my position, but I felt I had already lost my man, I could not afford to lose my God and my sanity as well.
“Nothing will separate you from my love,” He said to me again.
He kept offering me that same solid ground of His love to stand on. He was assuring me that I would not lose Him, no matter what. But my battle with fear was not going to be easily won.
“I don’t know if I am strong enough for this,” I told my friend.
“Strong enough for what?” she asked.
“Strong enough to pray persistently for Ethan to come back.”
I went home and laid down shakily in my bed and pulled up the covers. It was not nighttime yet, but I felt as spent as a person could, “I think this might destroy me,” I admitted to the LORD.
“Nothing will separate you from my love.”
Did I believe that? My actions, my fear, my bowing out before the battle had even begun would suggest that maybe I did not. I took a deep breath and pushed the covers back and found my way to my knees there on the floor of my room once more.
“I believe you LORD.” I began to pray aloud, “Nothing will separate me from Your love. I can risk anything. And so, I shall ask again. Give me the strength for the persistence this will require, show me what this is supposed to look like.”
What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written,“For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Romans 8: 31-39