Do we need a Garden of Gethsemane moment?

Have you ever had to do something that was hard, that you’d rather not do, but you do it because it’s part of a bigger plan for the good of all people?

You, know, like now?

We’re staying home, away from our friends and loved ones, avoiding human contact. Every aspect of our lives has changed: school, work, religious practice, shopping, eating, entertainment, how we express love and care. It’s really hard. But we’re doing it–partly out of fear of getting COVID-19 ourselves, and partly out of the desire to protect the more vulnerable in our community.

As Dr. TaLawnda Bragg said in a Zoom call I was part of:

COVID is something new. We have no defense to it. Despite what you hear, there is no cure, no vaccine. All we can do is supportive care (help you breathe) until your body figures out how to fight it. Our only response is to limit the spread. 

So we change our lives. It’s hard, and it’s sad, and we grieve the things we miss. But it’s our only choice, so we do it for our own good and the good of our community.

There is a person in the Bible who knows exactly how we feel.

Jesus.

Remember Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, the night before he died, saying,

“My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.” … He prayed that, if it were possible, the awful hour awaiting him might pass him by. “Abba, Father,” he cried out, “everything is possible for you. Please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.”

Mark 14: 34-36

He prayed that three times. Dying and suffering for us was not something Jesus did lightly or easily. It crushed him with grief. Even after he’d stopped asking that he not have to go through with it, Luke describes him this way:

Then an angel from heaven appeared and strengthened him. He prayed more fervently, and he was in such agony of spirit that his sweat fell to the ground like great drops of blood.

Luke 14:43-44

Grieving. In agony of spirit. Suffering and dying was going to be hard and sad. But Jesus did it anyway because he loved you and me and all the people and his death was the plan to bring us right with God again.

Jesus knows how we’re feeling now. He’s been there, too.

And he shows us how to deal with it:

  • talk to God,
  • ask your friends for support (not that the disciples were much good to him–they kept falling asleep),
  • tell God how you’re feeling,
  • ask God for what you want,
  • have an “and yet” orientation and be prepared to follow God’s way even when it isn’t the most comfortable.

We can do that now.

Lord God, I am sad that I can’t hug my friends, that my kids can’t hang out with their friends in person, that I can’t visit my parents, that my mother’s aunt died without anyone able to visit her for the last few weeks of her life. I cried this morning when I watched my pastor lead communion by himself as we recorded our worship service for tomorrow. I miss my church family, the children most of all. I am frightened for the poor and vulnerable in my community, for those who’ve lost work, for those who live in homes that are not safe places. Oh God I want to leave the house without worrying about what I touch and when I washed my hands and whether I’m going to be able to find toilet paper when I need it. I want this to be over. And yet, I want to keep people safe, and I want to do what I can to help. I want to love people with a love like yours. So I will stay home as much as I can, and I will greet people with jazz hands, and I will explore every other way I can to keep up my connections, and I will do my part to share physical and digital resources. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

When your soul feels crushed to the point of death because of everything sad that’s happening now and the hard things that are being asked of us, let it be your Garden of Gethsemane moment. Jesus had to do something that was going to be very difficult and painful and made him very sad, but he talked to God about it, and then he did what he had to do for the good of all people. Let’s be like Jesus. Our version, in Spring 2020: stay home, stay safe.

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