Many thanks to Tiffany Swafford, Biola alum, former RD and current student care coordinator, for this year's Easter meditation. Follow Tiffany @tiffanymary, and check out more of her writing @arise.magazine, a devotional magazine started by a collaborative of amazing Biola women!
My husband and I became foster parents last year. E is almost 6 (although if you ask him, he will tell you he is 26), and S just turned 4. A few weeks ago, I went to pick them up from school, and when I got there, S's teacher told me she was washing her hands in the bathroom. I could hear S's voice as she talked with one of her friends, and I called out her name. She immediately yelled, "MY MOMMY IS HERE!" and she ran out to see me. I was a little taken aback by her response - if you had asked me if she knew the sound of my voice before that moment, I would have said, "probably not." We've never stopped to learn the sound of one another's voices intentionally. In reflecting on it, she knows the sound of my voice for the same reason I know the sound of hers - because of the amount of time we spend together.
In John 20, we read about Mary Magdalene standing outside of Jesus' tomb, weeping, heartbroken over the death of Jesus. Yet, when she finally saw Him, the Bible says that she supposed Him to be the gardener.
Mary was a woman who was standing outside of Jesus' tomb grief-stricken over the death of Jesus - isn't it strange that she didn't recognize Him when He was standing right in front of her? She wasn't able to see Him because she was looking for Him somewhere else. How often do we do that? How often do we miss what Jesus is doing right in front of us because we get so caught up in assuming He will show up in another way or worse that He will not show up at all?
When Jesus saw Mary in the garden, all He had to do was say her name, and she knew it was Him. He wasn't upset that she mistook Him for a gardener. She wasn't far off - her only mistake was thinking He was a gardener instead of THE Gardener. We see metaphors of God being a gardener woven throughout Scripture. In John 15, Jesus says, "I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener." The Lord's desire is for us to be dependent on Him - to be dependent on the vine. In order to be dependent on the Lord, we need to spend time with Him. Dependence requires trust, and it is hard to trust someone you hardly know, isn't it?
When S and I first met, if I called her name while she was in the bathroom, she might hear her name but have no idea who called it. Hearing my voice might create confusion instead of bringing comfort. The more time we have spent together, the more familiar my voice has become, and now when I call out her name, she might not know exactly where I am, but she knows who called it and comes running.
That happens in our relationship with Jesus as well. The more time we spend with Him, the more we will recognize His voice. The more we will be able to discern when someone says, "Jesus said…” or “Jesus told me…" in the same way that when someone tells us something our best friend said, we know instantly if that is something they would have said or not. The better we know God, the more we'll hear Him and see Him move through seemingly unlikely methods. He spoke through the whisper in the wind to Elijah and through the burning bush to Moses. God spoke through an angel to Mary, and He wrestled all night with Jacob.
Relationships are a two-way street, and our relationship with God is no different. As @purpose_driven.homebody said in one of her Instagram posts, "Familiarity takes time. Intimacy takes even more time than that." And I couldn't agree more. Why do you think Mary knew it was Jesus in the garden when He said her name? It is because she had spent time with Him.
May we never become numb to the fact that Jesus took our place on the Cross. We want to be people who weep over the death of Jesus, as well as ones who rejoice in the truth that death could not hold Him. I long for each of you to know the sound of the Lord's voice. May we not assume we understand how Jesus will show up in our lives, but instead ask Him to open our eyes to the things He is doing in and around us. Jesus has risen! Let us marvel at that truth. Let us trust that the Lord has been tilling the ground of our hearts throughout all of Lent and Holy Week. My question for you is, are you ready to receive what He might have for you as we transition out of Lent and step into a new season?
Jesus Christ has risen. He has risen indeed.