Monday, September 24, 2012

The Man in the Garden

I wasn't there so I don't know... but I imagine it to be a  very still night. A night when the owls stayed aloft in their trees and even the crickets dared not disrupt the peace with their chirping. I imagine the silence to be so penetrating that it almost makes your ears ache. The kind of silence that seems to echo fear, so that you dare not break it... I imagine it was also very beautiful. The centre of a garden in glorious twilight. I imagine the sky was clear with the stars gleaming in all their splendor. The moon smiling just enough light to unveil the tranquil beauty of the garden in which he stood. The gentle aroma of perfumed blossoms dancing in the air all around. I imagine that to anybody else it would have appeared to be a place of peace.

I wasn't there, but this is how I imagine it.

In the centre of the garden, surrounded by the tranquil beauty, he fell to his knees in anguish. Gripped with sorrow and unable to stand under the weight of his troubles, he lay in the middle of the garden and he prayed. He prayed for an hour. I imagine the tears flowed heavy and his line of thought was disjointed by the desperation of his soul. But still he prayed that the cup would be taken from him. That there may be some way that he would not have to walk the path he was being asked to follow. Yet even in this most desperate hour, he still had the grace to surrender his own will. It was becoming clear that the answer to his prayer was, "No"...

Finding little comfort in his own prayers he looked to his closest friends for aid, for some form of comfort. But the tranquil beauty had lulled them to sleep. Clearly they had failed to recognised his desperation and need for their fervent support. With a word of rebuke, he called them to action again, "Keep watch, and pray for me!" And again he went back to the centre of the garden to pray, alone. And the Lord sent an angel to strengthen him, but he was still in agony. The jumble of emotions - fear, anxiety, grief, sorrow - was so great within him that his sweat became as drops of blood. He was physically consumed by his troubles. And still he prayed and still the answer was, "No".

Again he returned to his friends for support and strength, and again he found them asleep. Their own need for rest blinded them to his anguish and again they failed to offer any comfort or support. And again he returned to the centre of the garden, alone. He surrendered his will for a third and final time. When he returned to his friends once more, he found them asleep. Again he roused them and called them into action... but this time it was too late, for the hour was at hand...

What a depressing and encouraging portrayal of the Christian life.  Being a Christian will not spare you from experiencing troubles. It will not spare you from deep anguish or desperation. Being surrounded by Christian fellowship will not save you from feeling utterly abandoned and alone in your darkest hour. The Christian life does not promise to spare you from pain, but it does promise to get you through it.

Jesus is fully acquainted with our human experience. He knows the heights of joy and the depths of woe that our human existence can deliver. He lived it for Himself. I draw so much comfort from the story of the man in the garden. In my darkest hour, the man from the garden stands with me. And when I crumble under the weight of my grief and loneliness, he whispers to me, "I'm here". And I know He is. Then when I cry out in anguish and utter despair, He says "I know your pain". And I know He does. And when I ask in desperation, "Will you redeem my brokenness?" He says, "I will." And I believe Him.

Walking with Jesus does not mean that you will not have to face turmoil, grief or hardship, but it does mean that you won't have to face these things alone.