Roll the Stone Away

One of my favorite scenes in the New Testament is when Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead in John 11: 38-44. “Roll the stone aside,” Jesus tells those around the burial place, a cave cut into the hillside. After the stone is moved, Jesus calls out in a loud voice: “Lazarus, come forth!” The dead man obeys, and Jesus then commands that Lazarus be freed from his burial linens and let go.

Aside from the brilliant drama of the moment, the undeniable demonstration that Jesus is the Lord of life, I am especially fond of this passage because I heard it proclaimed in church at a pivotal time in my own life when I was struggling with direction.

My fifth child was almost a year old, and I knew it was time to move on from having babies.

But move on to what?

As a full-time stay-at-home mom, I’d devoted fifteen years to raising my children. About once a year, I managed to produce a Christian magazine article, which satisfied my desire to write. (All my other desires were to get more sleep.) Since I still had a young child, I knew I wouldn’t be heading back to outside employment for at least another five years until she entered kindergarten, and even then, I’d need summers off to be home with my kids. What kind of work could I do, other than answer one of those ads in the back of magazines for someone to stuff envelopes as their own home business?

That’s when I heard the Scripture proclaimed at church.

And it immediately struck me that I needed to roll a stone aside in my own life – the stone of my own excuses that prevented me from committing myself to developing ALL the gifts God had given me.

Because excuses aren’t the same as authentic obstacles.

I didn’t have an enormous, heavy rock to literally push away like the friends of Lazarus had. Yes, I had important demands on most of my time, but I realized that some of those demands were also self-imposed – stones I had placed in my own pathway. With two teens in the house who doted on their baby sister, there wasn’t any reason I had to be the only one to mind the baby for an afternoon, yet I hesitated to lay that responsibility (stone) on my older children. Once I did, though, it was good for all of us – my teens learned new skills in carrying that particular stone, and with it removed from my path, I had several hours a day to develop my writing skills.

One by one, I worked at rolling away the stones of excuses so my writing talent could come out of its cave.  When my fifth child left for college last fall, I was sad to see the end of that phase of my life, but so excited to greet the new one waiting for me.

What stones do you need to roll aside to answer God’s call to new life?

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8 thoughts on “Roll the Stone Away

  1. I love that Gospel passage, too (there is a great song by Tom Conry that is based on it — I can’t think of the verse now without humming the song!).

    What you wrote strikes a chord with me, particularly the part where you talked about your initial hesitation at asking your older kids to help out so you could have some writing time. My kids are much younger, but I often struggle to figure out what I should be doing for them and what I should expect them to be able to do. I think it is so easy to get stuck in a groove of “this is the way I’ve always done it,” when in fact our kids are able to shoulder more responsibility than we initially think they can. And you are right; that kind of responsibility is good for kids (and the downtime is good for moms!). Anyhow, thanks for an encouraging post and for nudging us all to think about the difference between excuses and actual obstacles. Blessings on your writing!

    • My pleasure, Ginny! I wouldn’t trade my days of mothering little kids (and big ones, too!) for anything, and I have to say it was – and is – a continuing source of joy, as well as great material for my writing. I totally believe you can have it all, just not all at the same time. Blessings to you, too!

  2. Hey, Jan, I’m a dad–three kids, all grown and flown away–but I relate. There are always the voices that would cause us to stumble, stop, or just pitch it in. From Proverbs 4:23-25, “Above all else, guard your heart … Let your eyes look straight ahead, fix your gaze directly before you …”
    That’s what you did. Go, girl!

    • Thank you, Samuel. I still struggle with focus, and I know I always will, but sometimes distractions lead to the most interesting paths, don’t you think? I always find myself wanting to explore what God lays before me – I often wish I could clone myself to try it all out while the real me keeps on task!

  3. A great perspective, Jan, and a favorite gospel passage as well. Your statement–because excuses aren’t the same as authentic obstacles–really got my attention. How true! Sometimes I have to pause, discern the situation, and realize the reason it seems so dark is I have managed to get stuck in the cave behind the stone as a result of my own choices. My two kids are also grown and have flown away, but there will always be stuff, people, and voices clamoring for attention. Thank you for sharing your insight!

    • I’m happy to have been a little piece of your day, Micky! As it happened, I heard and had that response to that Scripture the week before Palm Sunday, and claimed it for myself in the following two weeks, so when Easter arrived, I really felt like I’d walked into new life along with Jesus. God is so good to us in sending us His word when we need it!

  4. Thank you for this reminder. My stone is blocking the ability to get what I have beyond the writing and perfecting stage. I get it there and don’t seem to get it to the daylight beyond my cave. I will have to ask God to help me determine what the stone is and why I let it remain there.

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