Then [Jesus] said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me.” And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” And he came to the disciples and found them sleeping. And he said to Peter, “So, could you not watch with me one hour? Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
I grew up running.
It’s one of my clearest memories, the day I heard my parents talking in the backyard about signing me up to run on a track team. It was 1984, I was eight years old, sporting a true Farrah Fawcett haircut, and I could hear their voices there in our living room because the windows were open to let the California breeze in.
I was tall and fast and somehow, running just seemed to become a part of me after that. You would never guess that now, of course, given that I don’t run races anymore. But occasionally at one of my son’s football games, when I stand on the painted lane numbers of a real track, a sleeping part of my soul comes alive. It’s all the result of familiar territory and ancient brain pathways, I suppose.
Over the last few weeks, I’ve thought a lot about running, but not the kind that involves lanes and spikes and batons for the mile relay. I’ve thought about the kind of running that feels like escape. There have been sorrows aplenty in the great, wide world as well as in the lives of several dear friends.
The human soul can only bear so much, you know?
Some days I daydream about running away for a week to Europe or Wyoming or home to California. Others I fantasize about the kind of running that takes you right into the middle of the pain in someone’s life. I long to run into the fire of my friends’ lives and rescue them. But there are some fires that can only be put out by God, and those flames seem to take time to fully submit to His will.
So I keep running in place, praying for all the sad things to come untrue.
What I’m learning is that all this figurative running is taking me somewhere. Buried deep within the struggles of our lives is an abundance of Jesus. I have wasted so many years of my life being afraid of the struggle, wanting to run away from difficulty or ensure that the people I love will never face a dark day. I don’t want to live my life like that ever again. I don’t want a new kind of insurance to lobotomize my fears. I want to stand in the midst of the Garden, to remain here with the people who are hurting.
I want to stay fully awake and watch with Jesus.
When Jesus carried the cross to Calvary, everyone could see He was carrying death, but only He knew He also carried the greatest gift of life on His back. He carried death so He could end its reign on earth, and life so He could lavish it upon the children of God for all the evers that ever will be.
If we look away or fall asleep, we might miss our chance join Him in living for the sake of true Love.
All around us, the world is caught in the Garden, holding its breath and in need of prayer. Blessed are those who mourn. When we lift up the sorrows of the world and press them to our heart to better understand one another, we lift God’s greatest gift of love, too.
The window of heaven is open, and Jesus’s voice outside is floating in on the breeze of the Spirit. It isn’t hard to hear Him asking us to watch and pray.
But we will have to stay awake.