Monday, September 22, 2014

Prayer in the Garden

One of the moments I struggle with perhaps the most, or maybe it's because I seem to be having more of these moments lately, is what can easily be called the Garden of Gethsemane moment. God is finally about to do that really big thing, and here I am questioning whether I've got it in me to be a part of it. 

Which is weird to say because these are usually the things He's created me for. Well....sort of.

I don't think, in a perfect world, we would face 90% of the stuff we have to go through. I think it's easy to say that God is doing this thing or that thing, but at the same time, it's easy to see that if it weren't for the fallen world, He wouldn't have to. And so we...I..find ourselves torn between this God-ordained moment and a very real grief that it's necessary at all. In these moments, it's hard to know what to pray.

We want to talk to God. We want to tell Him how we're feeling about all this. We want to share what's on our hearts. But it's very clear that there are conflicting ideas within us. Conflicting hearts in one spirit. On the one hand, we're thankful. Whatever is about to happen is a beautiful thing. We're ready for this. We can't wait to be a part of the big thing that God's got going on.

On the other hand, it's about to change everything. And perhaps most importantly, it's about to change us. And we're not sure how keen we are on really being changed. We're not sure that whatever it is God thinks is in us is actually in us. 

We pray both surrender and hesitation. And both feel like a betrayal.

That's the hardest part for me. On the one hand, if I pray in surrender to the work God is unfolding in my life, I declare my trust for God and my willingness to give up everything to have Him. This sounds noble, and it's certainly the way I want my life of faith to look...I think. But it also feels dishonest. Because the coming Cross is never easy. It's not so simple as to trust God and believe in the bigger thing. It's not even so simple as to want that bigger thing. There's that piece of humanity inside every one of us that in the very moment of surrender, holds back just a little because we know...this is about to suck. It's going to be hard. It's going to be painful. It's going to take discipline and courage and so many other things it doesn't feel like we have enough of. And even if we have enough of them, even that doesn't feel like enough because it doesn't make it hurt any less. It doesn't make it any easier. 

And isn't that kind of crazy? I would like my faith to say that having everything I need of God makes this life easier. But it doesn't. It gives me hope. It gives me courage. It gives me strength. It gives me the kinds of things I need to start standing up and facing it, but it doesn't make it easier. 

I think that's one of the things Jesus was struggling with in the Garden. He knew how things were going to go down. He knew what was about to happen. He knew, without a doubt, that He had it in Him. Yet in this very powerful, brief moment, He realizes all the strength of His Spirit is not necessarily enough for His flesh. It's somehow haunting that the Son of Man could recognize this; how much more can we know it. 

On the other side of this, however, is that hesitation. And that's not really an answer, either. To give into that part of you that says you maybe can't do this, that maybe everything you have is not enough to make it to discount the God who has given you everything you need. He who calls you to a good work will provide for you to complete it; He already has. And so sometimes, to pray about how troubling this all is feels like betrayal, too. It feels dishonest. Because a heart of faith knows this trouble is temporary. A heart of faith knows it has enough. A heart of faith believes in the God who has called us to these moments. 

So whichever way we turn in the Garden, it feels like betrayal. Of one thing or another. Neither of which can stand to be betrayed.

Jesus addresses this problem, although He does not begin to solve it, by praying both. He admits hesitation even as He prays surrender. He surrenders, but not without hesitation. He hops back and forth between trusting in God and questioning His sufficiency. Between questioning and trusting the Spirit. Between one thing and another. Father, if it is possible, take this cup from me. But if it is not, give me strength

These sentiments speak to the issue of the torn heart, but they don't really answer the question. How can you live in two different realities? How do you bridge the gap between flesh and spirit? How do you trust in both God and heart at the same time? How do you respect the difficult life you have to live in the same breath as you honor the God who has called you to live it?

I don't know in a fallen world that there's a good answer to these questions. I don't know that there's a way to do it. I think it has to be a back and forth. It has to be a give and take. It has to be a willingness to wrestle with the space between hesitation and surrender. I don't feel good about that. Not at all. It feels like a series of betrayals. It's agonizing. 

But it's not enough to be agonized, either. We must, at some point, in some way, by some process, make a choice. We must choose one or the other. Trust or timidity. Hesitation or surrender. We must betray one or the other. The spirit or the flesh. This life or our God. And we must do so decisively. Otherwise...

(stay tuned)

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