Everyone had gone to bed but I was still up watching a movie. Suddenly, my 18-year-old brother came in the door, looking a little haggard. He lay down on the couch and fell asleep. Then without warning, he leaned over and threw up on the living room rug. Once again, he had come home drunk.
We were a well-respected missionary family, settling in after having to leave our post due to government chaos. We moved to Canada when I was 16, and my brother was 12. As a scared teen, I stayed close to the lines, but as a dreamer and free spirit, my brother erased the lines. He was not vicious about it, but God and church were not for him anymore. He was going to find his own way.
It broke my parents’ hearts. Everything in their world was crashing in. They had to leave Ethiopia—where they met, fell in love, married, and served together for 20 years. They were trying to do what was best—and now things were outside of their control. Their only son was beyond their reach.
Many times, as Christians, we are confronted with the paradox of living in the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus. Unforeseen things crash into our carefully crafted Christian worldview and we stall out. In despair we mumble, “all we can do is pray.” We do not say this out of disrespect but more with a fading view of hope.
The women at the tomb the first Easter morning show us what it means to live in the death and resurrection of Jesus. Upon arriving, the angels instruct them to look into the tomb. People do not readily look into the tombs of their lives. In our North American world, we do all we can to dress up death, hoping to disguise its unpleasantness. Yet it is in the looking that they receive the words of life, “He is not here, He is risen… So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy” (Matthew 28:7-8).
While prayer may feel like a last-ditch resolve, it is really an invitation from God to extend our reach. Many of us have purchased a “reach extender” for our ailing parents to reach things off the top shelf. Can I suggest to you that prayer can be just like that?
First—we admit things are outside of our reach. It is so important that our prayers be filled with authenticity. God longs for us to tell Him how we feel—frustrated, angry, or hopeless we feel as we try to reconcile why He has seemingly failed us.
Then, after having gazed into our tombs, we wait for the risen Lord to come. Jesus comes to Mary. He pursues her at the tomb. God comes to extend her reach, and He will for us as well. In those moments of sheer desperation, He comes with a word, a promise, His comforting presence, and often with a fresh glimpse of His unlimited power and glory which act like a reach extender.
We then step forward, reaching out as far as we can towards Him, grasping His hand while He reaches even further into the realm of His Kingdom and His purposes. Prayer is looking into the tombs of our regrets and disappointments, and then being given words of life which enable us to go beyond our reach into the spiritual realm and encounter the resurrection and the Life.
Two years after my brother puked on the living room rug I heard a knock on the door of my university apartment. My brother was standing there with a peaceful look on his face. He had driven 1.5 hours to my university, unannounced, to share his news. A few days earlier, he had been out having a wild party weekend with his friends and they were at a bar. Two of his friends suddenly said to him; “Hey man, you need to know that we accept you just the way you are, you don’t have to prove anything to us.” Somehow, when Ken heard those words, it was like they were coming from the heart of God and it broke him. The Spirit of God used their words to reach into my brother’s heart and convict him. Ken left the bar on foot, walked for miles, and on that walk he gave his heart back to Jesus.
Who would have thought that something a non-Christian in a bar said could be used to draw someone back to God? God had reached through my parents’ prayers, my faithful grandmother’s, and many others. Not only did they get their son back, but he came back a new man. He started going back to church and having a personal relationship with Jesus.
Is there someone in your life right now who is beyond your reach? I had stopped praying for my brother, but God’s heart towards Him never waned. It is not too late. Take time to look into your tomb. Stay there as long as you need to, knowing that Jesus’ reach extends to you, and will extend through you into those in the regions beyond your grasp.
“Surely the arm of the Lord is not too short to save, nor his ear too dull to hear” (Isaiah 59:1).
Kathy was born to missionary parents, in Ethiopia. She lived there for 16 years and then moved to Canada. Upon completing degrees at Briercrest and University of Waterloo, she began working with the Navigators of Canada—she worked in university, community, and national settings with them for 12 years. She was then invited to serve at First Alliance Church, where she ministered for 16 years. She presently serves in the Eastern Canadian District as the Director of Relational and Spiritual Vitality.