“Stay here,” said Jesus to the disciples, “while I pray.” He took Peter, James and John with him, and became quite overcome and deeply distressed. “My soul is disturbed within me,” he said, “right to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch.”
So much of my reading of Jesus Journey has caused me to pause and reflect again on what I know of Jesus. I feel so tenderly grateful for these pauses; pauses that have drawn me nearer, invited me to look again… to be in awe again of who He is and the measure of what He has done for me, and you, and every person I have ever set eyes on, and every one I will ever see, and every other person who has ever drawn breath.
I can lose the big-ness of it all so quickly in my day to day, and yet it’s in this big-ness that I am over and over again aware of His voice speaking with that mix of soul-arresting power and the gentle whisper of His quiet truth in my ear.
What happened at Gethsemane is BIG. It’s the moment when it seems God as a human came undone. (I think it’s safe to say that if you or I were literally sweating blood, being “undone” would be a term that we would use about what we were going through.) It was the moment when Jesus as a man felt alone and overwhelmed and just not sure He was going to be able to handle what He knew was ahead for Him.
But it’s in this BIG moment that I hear a still small voice. It’s a voice that tells me, “It’s okay—even I felt alone.”
I don’t know about you, but for me there is some kind of relief in knowing that even Jesus felt these things. Of course it’s unfathomably heartbreaking to think of what He was facing: so much more than you or me will EVER face. But just the fact that He pleads not just once, but twice “Stay here,” gives me permission to remember my own moments of desperation without shame.
If Jesus felt alone in His fears, then it’s okay that I have felt something like that too at different times in my life...
There was a particular time in our lives when our children were very young, and they were facing exceptional challenges that sent us to-and-from what seemed like an endless merry-go-round of specialists and therapy and care, while at the same time my husband and I were trying to manage an escalation of ministry and advances in career... and both of us were facing challenges personally that we felt unequipped to handle. Honestly, it all just felt like WAY too much.
In the darkest of those days I can remember on multiple occasions sobbing into my husband’s arms, begging him to “make us a glass house so everyone can see just how hard all this really is!”
Those are memories of that feeling of longing to be understood... even when we know that no one is going to understand unless they could somehow walk in our shoes. Reading what Jesus went through in Gethsemane—and pausing to let it sink in—makes me think that longing to be understood isn’t something to be ashamed of. No, it can’t be. Because I can’t be ashamed of what it seems Jesus felt too. In a way, He might even have related to me wishing for a “glass house”—If only ANYONE could have truly seen what was going on in His world, understood His anguish and the agony He knew was coming…
So it seems that the longing to be understood is not sinful in itself. In fact, the gift of pause that Jesus Journey has given me through the reading of this chapter is that the longing to be understood is, in itself, simply a part of being human. And it means so much to me knowing that Jesus understands the pain of what that feels like more than I can ever know.
Some of you may be similar to me, looking back at your own Gethsemane-like moments in your life and realising that even though that particular “cup” didn’t pass from you, you actually weren’t alone after all. Just as Abba Father was with Jesus in Gethsemane, He was with you too. He was with you and saw you and understood your pain and all that you were facing, all that you were walking through...
He was with you all the while.
Today's guest post is by my precious sis-in-love/law, Tori Sheppard, who married my big brother and makes the world a more magical place: Hailing from the same town as the Sheppards just outside of Atlanta, GA, Tori met Tré (Trent’s brother) at the age of 16 and fell head over heels in love with him (and his family). Tori & Tré moved to the UK in 1993 and are now based in Northern Ireland since 2006, with their two, grown-up, world-changing children: Aidan and Elena. Tori delights in leading the Women’s Ministry for Causeway Coast Vineyard, and she counts it as one of the finest blessings of her life to have been one of the founders of The Factory with Youth with a Mission and the subsequent 12 years of touring worldwide with the band Onehundredhours. Tori has spent much of her life in ministry and mission and her heart is “part-time” in sub-saharan Africa where she serves on the boards of both E3 Initiative (e3initiative.org) and one of E3’s partner projects, Zimele Wethu (zimelewethu.org.za).