Can I get an amen for the possibility of spring? There was this very brief teaser this past week when I swear I heard a bird chirping as the warm(ish) breeze brushed my very pale, very dry and likely more-wrinkly-than-it-should-be skin.
But it felt like heaven. Because this winter? Has flat-out sucked. (And yes, my dearest Aunt Kathy B … I said ‘suck.’ For dramatic effect. Duh.)
Now, despite the fact that this winter really only started in January, many of us here in Michigan know there were times we never thought we’d leave home again. Or if our kids would. That was actually the more frightening part. Whether it was snow blowing so hard you couldn’t see beyond your face, or so cold that the thought of even taking the trash out just made for a fun challenge to fit more in the barrel for another week or just the simple fact that the snow was too deep to even leave the garage, we spent a fair amount of time stuck.in.side.
Truth be told, though, I needed it. I needed a season to be a little bit stuck … with myself. I did some pretty intense reading and study and writing that led to some pretty intense self-reflection. I did have help to get me started. I’d had some homework from a counselor that started me down this path of peeling back the onion, if you will. Would it shock you to know I’ve done some counseling? Guess what? It says nothing about me (or you) as a human, other than an admission that I’m brave enough to say I can’t do it alone. #sothere
Most of that work led me right up to Lent, interestingly enough. I have to be honest. Growing up, I thought only Catholics participated in Lent and I was pretty clueless about the ceremony around it. So clueless that, not that many years ago, I let someone at work know she had dirt on her forehead. You know, for Ash Wednesday. Oh, Staci. You sweet, sweet thing. So sheltered.
These last few years, though, I spent time understanding just what Lent’s about and considering how I could participate. Turns out, anyone can. I know! Who knew?! I guess I think of it as another change in season; it just seems like, reading Scripture, the change happens so very rapidly. And, for me, the real transition starts in the garden.
There were a number of times during my study that the idea of the gardens came up. There was Eden, in the beginning and in the end. But then there was also Gethsemane. It’s where my light bulb moment occurred. It’s somewhat embarrassing to admits actually. But, I don’t think I realized until these past few months, how relatable Jesus is. I know that probably sounds silly to a lot of you. But I’ve always seen him as this super human of sorts; kind of like an untouchable. That was, until I read these verses in Hebrews:
12 1-3 Do you see what this means—all these pioneers who blazed the way, all these veterans cheering us on? It means we’d better get on with it. Strip down, start running—and never quit! No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins. Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God—he could put up with anything along the way: Cross, shame, whatever. And now he’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God. When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls!
I just love The Message. The words jump off the page at me. But here, I emphasized a couple statements that suddenly meant more to me than they ever had before. He did this life. He knows exactly what anything we could possibly deal with feels like. Of course, He experienced physical pain far greater than what I could ever fathom but I knew that was the destiny He came to fulfill. I just never considered that His day in and day out was likely so similar to mine. And he never lost sight of what was ahead. He plowed through. And suddenly? I felt this closeness because he was no longer super human. He was just … human.
So that’s why, when I read about Gethsemane, I want to go up and put my arm around Him like I would a friend in the midst of the absolute worst. Because here, we see Jesus in agony (and his squad of ‘fearless’ disciples you know, sleeping). But, I feel like He is so fully human in this moment and I ache so much for what He must have felt. Because I’ve felt it, too. How many times have I asked (begged) God to take something away? Well, of course only I know that, but I’ll tell you … it’s been more than the three Jesus did. I noticed that, too; that it wasn’t just once that He asked God to take the cup. And I want to cry with him ‘just take the dang cup!’ Because I get it. I’ve had legit conversations with a good friend of mine about this cup I’ve held up in offering on a number of occasions. It’s empty … which feels inappropriate for an offering. But, it’s empty because in those moments, I feel like I have nothing to give. I just want him to take it away.
So as I’ve read these past few days about that moment with Jesus, I’ve thought about what it took for Him to pray through those tears and feelings of desperation and to ultimately whisper, ‘your will, not mine.’
It took everything. Everything.
It’s made me cry every time I’ve considered it so I had to just get it out. Because when I think about what Jesus gave and what he asks for of me, it’s the same. He wants everything. And what would that cost me?
Well, it would cost everything. It is complete surrender and obedience all at once. It is recognizing that what He’s asking for isn’t our Sunday best. It’s the reality that His ask is if we can be in a position to offer Him our everything in everything.
And for some, it’s not worth it. Face it, we’re selfish people. We want this life to be light, easy and free and some of us struggle to believe that God’s going to get it right. This isn’t judgment, my friends. This is what I’m admitting that I’ve held on to so tightly for most of my life. I didn’t trust He knew what He was doing. Sweet, sweet girl. Bless my heart.
But here’s what happened to me when I was stuck inside this winter. I wrestled. And it was not.pretty. Not by any stretch. No, it wasn’t pretty; it was actually beautiful. Because while I wrestled, I felt like I was throwing these weights off of my worn body; weights I’ve carried for so many years that weren’t actually mine to carry. And as I read again about Jesus’ moments in that garden, I asked him to take everything (again). But this time I meant it.
And you know what He did? He took it. Because God didn’t. Jesus’ destiny was fulfilled on the cross when He decided to give everything for me. So I could give everything for Him.
Will you consider that choice with me for just a sec? What would it look like for you to give everything? Is it worth it? Here’s what I can promise you. It is. Because it isn’t perfection He requires. He just wants you. Your ordinary, everyday, messy, beautiful you. All of it. Everything. Amen.