The Garden of Gethsemane has been my accidental theme the last couple weeks. It started with a purchase of My Mother's Hymn Book, a basic and endearing Johnny Cash album. Though I have hymns I've historically enjoyed more, "In The Garden" has been my number one repeat - it has just crept in my heart.
Then I read these paragraphs in Grace-Based Parenting and I've been unable to move on from the ideas and "wow"-moments they have sparked:
"The unwillingness to give a voice to the hurts we have placed in our children's hearts is the epitome of high control. High-controllers are not strong people but rather weak, small, and selfish. In contrast, it is our openness to 'openness' that draws us closer to our children's heart and to God.
For example, Jesus came to do His Father's will; that meant everything His Father had sent Him to do. But when the moment came for the Savior of the world to complete His job, reality washed over Him. As Jesus stood on the threshold of the crucifixion and that His time had finally come, He was overrun and overwrought by the price of it all. In that moment of humanness, the Son did what He knew He had the freedom to do any time with His Father. He slipped to the back corner of Gethsemane, fell to His knees, and had a candid heart-to-heart talk with His Dad.
'My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me.'
I just can't hear the Father saying anything like 'A deal's a deal; get up and stop your whining!' There is nothing in God's nature that would even hint that He would say such a thing - especially to His child. But I know there are human fathers who dismiss their children's questions and doubts with statements far terser. They don't enjoy what was basic between Jesus and His Father.
Jesus came to do His Father's will and was committed to seeing it through. Ultimately, He said 'Yet not as I will, but as You will.' He arrived at this place after His Father had listened to His pleadings and pains and identified with His human reservations. The Father didn't rebuke His Son for asking or begrudge Him for hoping for some way out. He listened to his suffering plea and came alongside Him with help for His resolve. They both there was no other way to redeem mankind.
And Jesus came back to His Father a second time, and a third time! The Father's love allowed His Son to wrestle with the same issue even though the facts were not going to change. That's because in the grace of the moment, the Father wanted to be available to His Son to listen as long as it took for Him to work through the weight on His heart.
'Let us approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in times of need.'"
1 | Jesus' questioning, fearing, emotions and humanness was not sin.
The past few years I've become increasingly comfortable with being honest about where I am at and who I really am and how I'm really doing - with myself, and with other folks, and with God. The 'comfort' is found in a new understanding that it really is true: when I am weak, then He is strong. The point isn't to be "as strong/unaffected" as I can be, but to be in Him "as much as I can be." Wondering, begging, intense feeling, numb-not-feeling, wanting a way out... It's not sin. Jesus did it. He wasn't "not trusting God." The proof that He trusted God was that He went to Him, and that He went forward, not that He didn't wrestle.
Part of being a strong, good, "godly" Christian used to mean, to me, that I didn't "give in" to my emotions. I didn't break down. I had to keep it together. I had to have the right answers - and if I didn't, I better get busy studying and knowing those right answers. Life Poker Face. Don't let anyone know how terrible this hand really is. Keeep it tooogether.
I love that Jesus was like "Uh, screw it. I'm a mess. I can't take it. Dad? Please. Get me out of this - if there is any way. This is unbearable." And He was welcomed, and given "grace and strength for the moment." The Father gave Him enough to move forward into the following minute. And when that minute was done, there was enough for the next minute. I'm learning that Garden of Gethsemane Time isn't a guilt-trip about spiritual disciplines and something to become a noose: "Even Jesus went to be with the Father alone, how do you think you can face your trials without going to Him? Who do you think you are?" No. It's more of a picture into ferocious heart ache and how instinctual it was to go to Dad. "He will help. He's not ashamed of me. He's not bothered by me. He's not rushing through conversation with me. He's not annoyed that I am still dealing with this. He's not disappointed. He eagerly awaits comforting me, and wants me to share everything - everything - on my heart. I know I am safe with Him."
Thank you, Jesus, for not over-thinking and over-spiritualizing "your heart" - the roots and the motives and the actions and the reasons - you made it so simple. "When you hurt, you have a Father who wants you. And He made you - and even me - to feel and need Him." I love that. Thank you.
2 | Jesus knew the answers to "Why, God?" and "How will this be worked out for good?" and He still wrestled.
Before the physical world was made, there was a giant family-planning session. And the three-in-one God knew the cost and wanted to proceed ahead. Jesus' life on earth was a part of the agenda, and Jesus knew why. He had known why for eternity. He know how it would be good. He wanted the good - that's why He was here. It was a volunteer mission with a definite conclusion.
But the moment was still so hard.
It makes me feel better. I know what the last chapter of my book says. I've read ahead and know that "glory" and "paradise" and "no more tears" and "forever" and "eternally satisfied" and "rejoicing" is the end, and just the beginning. I know the best is yet to come, and it won't be a tainted best - it will be thorough and full and tangible. But I don't know the why's and how's for most of this life. Many things I can look back on and say "Oh, whoa. I see how that had to happen in order for this to happen, and okay, yes, that was good." But honestly, sometimes I just don't see it and God doesn't seem to make any sense whatsoever.
And how refreshing is it that Jesus knew the facts, the plans, the details, the answers, the WHOLE story, page by page, word by word, because He was a part of the penning of the tale, but when He was set into a climax as a human character, He responded like one? He allows us the freedom to work through and work out our salvations without fear of frustrating or resisting God. He shows us that being a child of God doesn't mean we robotically and stoically crank through life. He releases us to storm the throne room, dirty and disheveled, knowing that the scepter will always be extended, and that the King doesn't flinch when His royal garb is muddied by our tears and mess while He holds us. It's where He wants to be. Wrestling strengthens our relationship muscles with Him. It's, again, not a sign of weakness as much as it is a sign of strength. Thank you, Jesus, for showing me that even the answers to the questions can't ward off the pain and that I am allowed and invited to think, mull, weep, plead and interact with my Father.
3 | Jesus didn't have access to specific promises that I do.
Lastly, it amazes me Jesus didn't hear the Father say "I will never leave you or forsake you." Jesus wasn't promised "I will be hear. I will never leave your side." He had to deal with the silence of actually being abandoned by God.
This is never true for me.
However it feels, however it seems, however I act, I will not be forsaken. I will not be left. He is near. He goes before me, and stays with me, and hems me in behind. I am entirely safe. He remains in me, and I remain in Him. We're attached. And Jesus didn't live life as a person with that same hope and promise. He had to say "good-bye" and relinquish all the good He had ever known. He handed it over at the gates of Hell. 'My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?' It will never be my cry. I scream 'Abba, Father!' and He hears me, and flees the house, and meets me on the road, and comes to me, and gives me all His good things - He showers them on me, and excitedly celebrates.
Thank you, Jesus, for making me a part of the pact - for putting me in your place and giving me a very real hope and security.