Sunday, December 28, 2008

becoming Lazarus

when i was a senior in high school, i took an advanced lit class. one of the books we were required to read was crime and punishment, by fyodor dostoevsky. this is a pretty standard required read in high school and even in college. i never had a desire to read it, but as i got into the novel i was immediately hooked. i have since read it six times and it has become one of my favorite books. (if you haven't read it, i would highly suggest that you do.)

the novel follows a young man, rodion romanovitch raskolnikov. raskolnikov is a poverty stricken, intelligent, moody person. he hates being around other people. he has a theory that there are two kinds of people: the regular, common people, bound by laws. the second kind of people are the "napoleons" of the world, those who are not bound by law. these people can, and in fact are morally obligated to, commit crimes to provide a way to better the world. raskolnikov murders and robs an old woman and her sister in an effort to prove his a member of this elite class. the novel follows his thought process before and after the crime is committed, and delves into the psychology of a criminal.

another central character to the novel is sofya semyonovna marmeledov (sonia). she is also poverty stricken, and has been forced to prostitute herself to feed and provide for her father, a drunk, her step-mother, who is consumptive, and her three younger step-siblings. she is the savior to her family, although she is sinning to do so. raskolnikov befriends sonia. one day, he goes to visit her. he forces her to read the story of lazarus from the bible aloud to him.

"Sonia opened the book and found the place. Her hands were shaking, her voice failed her. Twice she tried to begin and could not bring out the first syllable.

'Now a certain man was sick named Lazarus of Bethany....' she forced herself at last to read, but at the third word her voice broke like an overstrained string. There was a catch in her breath.

Raskolnikov saw in part why Sonia could not bring herself to read to him, and the more he saw this, the more roughly and irritably he insisted on her doing so. He understood only too well how painful it was for her to betray and unveil all that was her own. He understood that these feelings really were her secret treasure, which she had kept perhaps for years, perhaps from childhood, while she lived with an unhappy father and a distracted stepmother crazed by grief, in the midst of starving children and unseemly abuse and reproaches. But at the same time he knew now and knew for certain that, although it filled her with dread and suffering, yet she had a tormenting desire to read and to read to him that he might hear it, and to read now whatever might come of it!...He read this in her eyes, he could see it in her intense emotion. She mastered herself, controlled the spasm in her throat and went on reading the eleventh chapter of St. John. She went on to the nineteenth verse:

'And many of the Jews came to Martha and Mary to comfort them concerning their brother.

'Then Martha as soon as she heard that Jesus was coming went and met Him: but Mary sat still in the house.

'Then said Martha unto Jesus, Lord, if Thou hadst been here, my brother had not died.

'But I know that even now whatsoever Thou wilt ask of God, God will give it Thee....'

Then she stopped again with a shamefaced feeling that her voice would quiver and break again.

'Jesus said unto her, thy brother shall rise again.

'Martha said unto Him, I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection, at the last day.

'Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection and the life: he that believeth in Me though he were dead, yet shall he live.

'And whosoever liveth and believeth in Me shall never die. Believest thou this?

'She saith unto him,'

(And drawing a painful breath, Sonia read distinctly and forcibly as though she were making a public confession of faith.)

'Yea, Lord: I believe that Thou art the Christ, the Son of God Which should come into the World.'

She stopped and looked up quickly at him, and controlling herself went on reading. Raskolnikov sat without moving, his elbows on the table and his eyes turned away. She read to the thirty-second verse.

'Then when Mary was come where Jesus was and saw Him, she fell down at His feet, saying unto Him, Lord if Thou hadst been here, my brother had not died.

'When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews also weeping which came with her, He groaned in the spirit and was troubled,

'And said, Where have ye laid him? They said unto Him, Lord, come and see.

'Jesus wept.

'Then said the Jews, behold how He loved him!

'And some of them said, could not this Man which opened the eyes of the blind, have caused that even this man should not have died?'

Raskolnikov turned and looked at her with emotion. Yes, he had known it! She was trembling in a real physical fever. He had expected it. She was getting near the story of the greatest miracle and a feeling of immense triumph came over her. Her voice rang out like a bell; triumph and joy gave it power. The lines danced before her eyes, but she knew what she was reading by heart. At the last verse 'Could not this Man which opened the eyes of the blind...' dropping her voice she passionately reproduced the doubt, the reproach and censure of the blind disbelieving Jews, who in another moment would fall at His feet as through struck by thunder, sobbing and believing....'And he, he---too, is blinded and unbelieving, he, too, will hear, he, too, will believe, yes, yes! At once, now,' was what she was dreaming, and she was quivering with happy anticipation.

'Jesus therefore again groaning in Himself cometh to the grave. It was a cave and a stone lay upon it.

'Jesus said, Take ye away the stone. Martha, the sister of him that was dead, saith unto Him, Lord, by this time he stinketh: for he hath been dead four days.'

She laid emphasis on the word four.

'Jesus saith unto her, Said I not unto thee that if thou wouldest believe, thou shouldest see the glory of God?

'Then they took away the stone from the place where the dead was laid. And Jesus lifted up His eyes and said, Father, I thank Thee that Thou hast heard Me.

'And I know that Thou hearest Me always; but because of the people which stand by I said it, that they may believe that Thou has sent Me.

'And when He thus had spoken, He cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth.

'And he that was dead came forth."

(She read loudly, bold and trembling with ecstasy, as though she were seeing it before her eyes.)

'Bound hand and foot with graveclothes; and his face was bound about with a napkin. Jesus saith unto them, Loose him and let him go.

'Then many of the Jews which came to Mary and had seen the things which Jesus did believed on Him.'"

this story meant so much to sonia, and eventually to raskolnikov, because they, too, would be resurrected from their sins. though dead, they would live again, through the healing power of Jesus Christ. i never thought deeply about the story of lazarus before i read crime and punishment. it was a miracle, and it was amazing, but it was (to me) like the rest of the miracles that Christ performed while on earth. after reading the story from sonia's perspective, it became much more three dimensional to me. suddenly, i was sonia. i was raskolnikov. i was lazarus. the Lord was raising me from the dead. the death of abuse, the death of depression, anguish, loneliness.

if i trust in the Lord, if i have faith in Him and his ability to heal me, i can be healed. i can be a new person, and begin my life over again. no matter our situations--for raskolnikov, it was repentance for a crime; for sonia, it was knowing that the Lord would forgive her in doing what was necessary to feed her family; for me, it is overcoming my abuse; perhaps for you it may be moving past the grief of losing a loved one, the difficulty of moving your family across the world, struggling with an illness, or feeling lost and discouraged.

"Said I not unto thee that if thou wouldest believe, thou shouldest see the glory of God?"


Rebecca said...

I absolutely loved this post. Thanks for sharing it. I'm an lds woman who is also trying to heal from childhood abuse, and I'm so glad I found your blog. :) Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

cornnut32 said...


i'm glad you found my blog too! please come back a lot. good luck with your healing process. if you get a chance, you should check out the survivor network--there is a link on my sidebar.

hope to see you again soon!