Changing the Narrative: Fight, Flight, Freeze, and Restore (My Redeemer Lives 3:2)

When I was in high school and even in early psychology classes in college, they taught us that the brain stem is responsible for two gut responses when we are confronted with danger: flight or fight.

Then, during graduate school, the truth came out –

We learn new things all the time, even in science, and we missed one: freeze.

There is the classic example given in psychology classes across the nation of what happens when you meet a bear in the woods. Why? I don’t know. How often do you meet bears in the woods? I can honestly say I never have. Perhaps it’s time for a new example. Let’s try this one:

You are walking into work or church, maybe even your home. It’s somewhere you go frequently. The people there are familiar with you, should know your character a little bit. You look up. You see a co-worker, a friend, someone familiar to you. You smile. You think in your head, “Oh, it’s such-and-such. It’s good to see them.” This is slightly involuntary. You generally think these things when you see this person, but don’t even realize it’s part of your thought processes. Then, said person opens their mouth. You open your heart and your brain for engaging conversation. Said person proceeds to lay into you about the way you handle a situation. They are not happy. They are getting worked up. You had no idea. Now there are people looking. You’d kind of like to dig a hole and crawl into it. You have three options:

You get hot and bothered and lose it. Words fly. We call this fight.

You start thinking about hippopotami because they are cute and this person is not. We call this flight.

Or your mind goes blank. You think nothing and enter the vortex we call freeze. Just done. Frozen.

There are many experiences in life that make us frozen, in varying degrees.

Resurrection heals even this.

Let’s look at Luke 7:11-17. This is the story of a woman whose only son was dead, the funeral procession already in play, the tears already falling.

11 Soon afterward he went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a great crowd went with him. 12 As he drew near to the gate of the town, behold, a man who had died was being carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow, and a considerable crowd from the town was with her. 13 And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her and said to her, “Do not weep.” 14 Then he came up and touched the bier, and the bearers stood still. And he said, “Young man, I say to you, arise.” 15 And the dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother. 16 Fear seized them all, and they glorified God, saying, “A great prophet has arisen among us!” and “God has visited his people!” 17 And this report about him spread through the whole of Judea and all the surrounding country.

Notice that no one in the story was frozen. What I want you to see is actually the absence of frozen.

Read Luke 7:13 again:

And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her and said to her, “Do not weep.” 

The Greek word for had compassion in this verse is esplanchnisthē. A more direct translation would be that Jesus was moved with compassion.

Jesus, Son of God, in His perfection, isn’t relegated to our classic psychological responses. He brings resurrection healing to this woman, her son, and restoration to their lives.

When He sees death, He isn’t frightened.

When He sees tears, He never freezes.

When He sees struggle, He fights a different kind of fight, against forces we cannot see. Wielding weapons of serious power, so we don’t have to.

Jesus is moved. Moved to do something, even when you can’t see it. Working in your life, moved by compassion, the great love He has for you.

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved… (Ephesians 2:4-5)

Our funeral biers of life may look different than this woman’s, than the crowd of witnesses’, than the person’s sitting next to us. The things that get us worked up, leave us speechless, or lock our hearts up tight, afraid to let someone hurt us, are all varied.

But know this today:

Jesus is moved.

He can work His restoration and healing in every situation bringing life where there once was death, joy where there once was sadness, and compassion where there once was cold and frozen.

Finish today by reading or writing out Psalm 126 and rejoicing alongside this widow. He does great things. He is moved.

Falling in Fear and Thankfulness (My Redeemer Lives 2:4)

Today we get to enter the weird vortex of Scripture that is Elijah and Elisha. Two guys, different stories, freakishly similar.

Elijah came first. We read about him raising a widow’s son yesterday from 1 Kings 17. Today we will hear the story of Elisha…raising a different woman’s son in 2 Kings 4. Find the backstory in 2 Kings 4:8-17 — Elisha stays with a couple, and he promises they will have a baby boy in the coming year. They never asked for a child. It was a gift from God to this couple, proclaimed through the prophet. 2 Kings 4:18-37 brings us to the rest of the story. It’s pretty lengthy, but has some great dialogue. It’s as action packed as any Netflix drama:

The child grew, and one day he went out to his father, who was with the reapers.19 He said to his father, “My head! My head!”

His father told a servant, “Carry him to his mother.” 20 After the servant had lifted him up and carried him to his mother, the boy sat on her lap until noon, and then he died. 21 She went up and laid him on the bed of the man of God, then shut the door and went out.

22 She called her husband and said, “Please send me one of the servants and a donkey so I can go to the man of God quickly and return.”

23 “Why go to him today?” he asked. “It’s not the New Moon or the Sabbath.”

“That’s all right,” she said.

24 She saddled the donkey and said to her servant, “Lead on; don’t slow down for me unless I tell you.” 25 So she set out and came to the man of God at Mount Carmel.

When he saw her in the distance, the man of God said to his servant Gehazi, “Look! There’s the Shunammite! 26 Run to meet her and ask her, ‘Are you all right? Is your husband all right? Is your child all right?’”

“Everything is all right,” she said.

27 When she reached the man of God at the mountain, she took hold of his feet. Gehazi came over to push her away, but the man of God said, “Leave her alone! She is in bitter distress, but the Lord has hidden it from me and has not told me why.”

28 “Did I ask you for a son, my lord?” she said. “Didn’t I tell you, ‘Don’t raise my hopes’?”

29 Elisha said to Gehazi, “Tuck your cloak into your belt, take my staff in your hand and run. Don’t greet anyone you meet, and if anyone greets you, do not answer. Lay my staff on the boy’s face.”

30 But the child’s mother said, “As surely as the Lord lives and as you live, I will not leave you.” So he got up and followed her.

31 Gehazi went on ahead and laid the staff on the boy’s face, but there was no sound or response. So Gehazi went back to meet Elisha and told him, “The boy has not awakened.”

32 When Elisha reached the house, there was the boy lying dead on his couch.33 He went in, shut the door on the two of them and prayed to the Lord. 34 Then he got on the bed and lay on the boy, mouth to mouth, eyes to eyes, hands to hands. As he stretched himself out on him, the boy’s body grew warm. 35 Elisha turned away and walked back and forth in the room and then got on the bed and stretched out on him once more. The boy sneezed seven times and opened his eyes.

36 Elisha summoned Gehazi and said, “Call the Shunammite.” And he did. When she came, he said, “Take your son.” 37 She came in, fell at his feet and bowed to the ground. Then she took her son and went out.

In verses 18-26 we see a woman trying to hold it together. She takes great pains to use language that says, “I’m fine.” Only her version of I’m fine is “All is well” in verses 23 and 26 (ESV) or “Everything is all right” in the NIV translation.

When have you ever felt like you just needed to hold it together? What situations and people in your life don’t quite feel safe enough to spill all the drama of life to? Just like this woman, we have places where we need to put boundaries, people we can’t spill it all to. We can relate.

Then, she gets to Elisha in verse 27. She falls at his feet. Elisha’s servant tries to push her away, but Elisha recognizes her distress.

Loss brings with it the kind of fear that sucks your breath in and you just want to fall down; you can try to hold it all together, but when we are grieving we need those safe people we can grab on to their feet and they won’t push us away.

The world is a scary place. The world is much scarier without the people we love in it. It’s even scarier without Jesus, without a Savior, without a Resurrected God.

When you have found yourself grieving, who are your safe people? Who can you grab hold of their feet and let the tears fall?

Not grieving? Now is the time to build your tribe, to invest in relationships with people who don’t push away at the hard things, but have their feet planted firmly in the Lord and His Love, and are ready to bear the burden with you, as you will with them.

Elisha responds right away and sends His servant to heal the child. He has faith and hope in a God who does resurrection miracles. He believes God can simply use his staff to do it, but for whatever reason, God sends the man himself. Maybe for this woman’s benefit, maybe so she can have the comfort of his person bringing the Spirit of the Living God into her home once again.

And the boy is healed. He is risen. His resurrection points to the Savior who will bring the power of the resurrection to all His people and the Living Spirit into all our homes through Baptism and the Word of Life — all yet to come.

Elisha and this woman have another moment. Read 2 Kings 4:37 one more time –

She came and fell at his feet, bowing to the ground. Then she picked up her son and went out.

Relationships don’t just consist of falling at feet in grief, but in thankfulness and joy as well. How often is thankfulness related to all that we fear –

Will we have enough money?

Will someone get hurt?

Will people break our hearts?

We fall at the feet of our Lord each day and say,

Thank you!

We pick up our bounty of strength and mercy and we move along in the journey.

Who are your people that you share “Thank you-s” with? Who sing praises to God with you? Who fall at His feet with you, wondering at all He has done?

Fears, friendship, and thankfulness — God brings all of it together in His plans and His time. All we can do is fall at His feet time and again as we witness His Resurrection in our days.

A Dirty Rotten Doubter and a Touchable Jesus (My Redeemer Lives 2:2)

Don’t you just hate it when someone defines you by one action  —

that one time you were mean in junior high,

the forgotten birthday your sibling won’t let you forget,

the time you got that speeding ticket…or three.

That last one might just be me.

No one loves a label, particularly one with a negative connotation, and especially one that just won’t die.

In this way we can completely relate to Thomas. How would you like to be remembered in infamy as the Doubter, with Doubting always added as a catchy pre-fix to your name?

Before we define Thomas by one passage of Scripture in John 20, let’s preface our post-resurrection-Thomas reading with less famous passages in which he makes his appearance.

In John 11:16, following the resurrection of Lazarus, Thomas proclaims his absolute willingness to die with Jesus:

So Thomas, called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.” 

In John 14:5-6, Thomas asks questions of Jesus, to understand and know His teacher, His Savior more, a clear mark of discipleship:

Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

When my husband showed me these verses, my heart became tender toward Thomas. He seems a little like an all-in or all-out kind of person, something I lend toward myself. However, it’s not how I see Thomas that matters, but how Jesus sees Thomas, and in our famous “Doubting” Thomas passage in John 20, Jesus makes His thoughts and His grace quite clear for our Doubter.

Read John 20:19-29 –

19 On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 20 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. 21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” 22 And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.”

24 Now Thomas, one of the twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.”

26 Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” 28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

Let’s put the emphasis here where it belongs: on Christ, rather than Thomas, so we can see Thomas for who Christ sees Thomas to be.

Jesus reaches in.

He reaches into Thomas’s questions.

He reaches into Thomas’s stubbornness.

He reaches into Thomas’s failure.

The Risen Christ gives Thomas the same gift He gave everyone else, despite his doubts. He offers him confession and forgiveness, new eyes, and a new heart.

I’m especially struck by the direct translation of the Greek for John 20:27:

“Bring the finger of you here, and see the hands of me, and bring the hand of you, and put (it) into the side of me.”

The timbre of it gives attention to the intimacy Jesus offered in response to Thomas’s proclamation that he would “never believe” unless he saw the marks and placed his hands in Jesus’ side.

Jesus takes the time and effort to address our fears and our failures. He doesn’t leave Thomas in shame. He offers the very thing Thomas says he needs. Now, this doesn’t always happen. When we ask for a sign, that doesn’t mean we’ll get it…or does it? Look further down in John Chapter 20 to find the answer.

John 20:30-31 –

30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

These are written, Thomas’s story is written as a sign for us. The Word of Life, the entirety of Scripture is the Sign for us. In fact, the signs are so many, so full that they can’t all be recorded in Scripture. He writes them in our lives and on our hearts.
We are all Thomases…Dirty Doubters, but we have a Touchable Savior.
Our Risen Savior comes into our lives and into our homes in His Word, answering questions, giving signs of Who He is and What He does for us every day. That same confession and forgiveness He offered Thomas is what defines us through the Resurrection of Jesus.
Thomas – Touched by Jesus….that’s his real name and how we are blessed to remember him.
Leave your name in the comments below, like my example here, write it large on a paper to remind yourself, and/or write it on your hand with an eyeliner or a marker. Let’s proclaim the Resurrection’s grace in our lives together.

I am Heidi – Touched by Jesus