“If I could that over again I sure wouldn’t!”
“Give me another chance. I promise I won’t mess up this time.”
“How could this have happened? Can I please have a do over?”
Some days, I feel like I am living in a land of shadows. They are the shadows of the way things could have been, the way things should have been, the “if onlys”, the “what ifs”.
I should have known better! It was not supposed to be like this!
Like haunting ghosts, the shadows fall.
The shadows fall fast.
They fall completely.
It can feel suffocating, dwelling in the land of shadows.
I feel the shadows the most when I look at my children. Do they remember what I did? How long I starved, and binged and purged? How long I toiled under the weight of shame, every breath a struggle to survive? How do they feel today about the shadows?
They are not just my shadows, they are their shadows, too.
When I returned home from inpatient treatment, I could hardly bear to look at them. I couldn't bear to see disappointment and shattered dreams reflected in the eyes of my four little girls.
It was my doing. I was the one to blame.
Please, Lord, I need a do over.
Had I really spent my life ashamed? Of what I weighed? Of why I weighed that much? Throwing happiness away with both hands for the whisper of a fraudulent promise, “When you are thin, you will finally be happy.”
Why? Why? Why had I done what I did? Why had I believed what I believed? My girls were 10, 8, 6, and 2 when I went away to treatment. How could I have done that to them? What kind of a mother does that?
In those moments, those shadow moments, when the memory of things that really happened, of things that I really did, threatens to choke the life out of me, I find myself whispering a desperate prayer.
"Please Lord, you can do anything. Give me another chance.
I need a do over.
Do overs are a chance to right a wrong. To ensure that things will turn out differently; the way they were supposed to. A do over can make the shadows go away.
If you have children, there is a strong possibility you are familiar with do overs. Often, do overs are accompanied by upended Monopoly boards, scattered game pieces, and episodes of sibling violence.
Whether the need for a “do over” involves the game of Life (if only I would have gone to college and became a doctor!), a missed shot in the championship game, a first date where jangling nerves overtake charming repartee, a botched entrance exam to the prestigious dream school, a case of laryngitis on the day of the big audition, a moment of unbridled anger at the gratingly slow cashier; a life of missed chances, of fear, of shame and regret; a life spent contending with an eating disorder...whatever the need for the do over may be, the ROOT of the need is the same. Something has gone wrong.
It needs to be put right.
But, what if what has gone wrong cannot be put right by any means we possess?
What if we are never afforded the opportunity to keep trying? What if the shadow of “if only?” is too dark, too deep, for us to ever find our way out by our own devices?
Scripture tells us in John 11 that Jesus arrived at a woman named Martha’s house three days after her brother, Lazarus, had died.
Martha said to Jesus, "Lord, if You had been here, my brother wouldn’t have died."
You see, something had gone terribly wrong. Her brother had died. And Jesus could have prevented it.
Jesus should have been there.
If only He had been there three days sooner, all of the pain, all of the death, all of the mourning, all of the sorrow, could have been avoided.
“Yet even now, I know that whatever You ask from God, God will give to you,” Martha said.
Martha's heart was crying out, "I have seen You do miracles! You have opened the eyes of the blind. Shadows are nothing to you! I know you are able to do anything.
Lord, please, I need a do over."
“Your brother will rise again," Jesus told her.
But Martha, still not fully comprehending the magnitude of what Jesus was saying to her, said, "I know that he [my brother Lazarus] will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” For you see, Martha had been taught about resurrection her whole life. It was a kind of resurrection that was going to happen at the end of all things.
"Yes, according to the Jewish teaching I have received my whole life, I believe he will rise again at the firstfruits resurrection of the dead. Someday.
But, please, Lord, I need a do over.
Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in Me, even if he dies, will live. Everyone who believes in Me will never die—ever. Do you believe this?”
Did Martha believe what Jesus was saying? Did she really? She desperately needed to.
Martha needed a resurrection.
A do over to end all do overs.
She needed to behold the Man of Many Sorrows as He wept at the tomb of his friend, her brother, Lazarus. The tears, the wrenching grief echoed through the ages of history. The tears of Jesus Christ were the incarnation. As Jesus wept, He identified Himself with suffering, with the things that break our hearts, with the frailty of being flesh and bone...the injustice, the abuse, the failure...all the things that make us cry out for a do over.
“Lazarus, come out!”
With Jesus's words, "Lazarus, come out!" ringing in Martha’s ears, she experienced a foretaste of what was to come.
The Do Over to end all do overs.
It is finished.
And yes, today, it's true, we see through a glass darkly.
We may weep because we lost the game, missed the shot, never got a second date, botched the entrance exam, didn’t get the role, regret our anger, our missed chances, our shameful behavior, the twenty years of our lives spent contending with an eating disorder; we shall see Him face to face.
Because the only Do Over we ever really needed has already been done.
What are shadows when the tomb is empty?
No shadow stands a chance in the face of such light.
Darkness has been swept away. Death has been swallowed up in victory.
Jesus, the friend of Lazarus, is the resurrection, and the life.
He fills our land of shadows with His light.
How about you? Has there ever been a time you wanted to have a do over?