Easter: The storied Garden

I’ve been thinking of the events leading up to the resurrection, specifically the moments in the Garden of Gethsemane.  Though I would love to travel it’s well-worn paths, I’ve only seen pictures of it, both actual and artistic renditions.  My mind flies most readily to the green-toned garden with the bent and gnarled tree, and a gracious, loving Savior with clasped hands and an upturned face, kneeling at it’s base.  I think of Him walking in, heavy-hearted, filled with a myriad of emotions.  Though he had been acquainting himself with humanity and mortality for the past 33 years, I am sure what He was about to be immersed in was far more daunting than the one-on-one empathy and healing he’d been extending.

I used to think of Him trudging into the garden with the nebulous idea that he was there to take care of humanity’s experiences and mistakes.  I imagined Him slightly irritated with Peter and the others who could not watch one hour with Him.  I thought of the pain he was feeling because of us.  My view of Him was filled with so much condescension and pride when in reality, I think the only condescension was the fact that He was here.  On earth.  To bring the perspective and Presence of heaven here, to a place where we feel so far from God.

I now believe He took those steps into that familiar garden with a heavy heart, knowing that he was about to feel all the pain that would be unleashed because of the fall of Adam.  Because when you set people loose with choices, in frail bodies, outside the presence of Deity, a lot can happen.  I believe those moments of agony had more to do with His love for us and His desire to understand the wounds that we would inflict on ourselves and others and that he wanted to feel the pain with us, not because of us.  That’s the way it’s always been right?  He has been possessed of a perspective and understanding that illustrates His knowledge of growth.  He has championed principles that enable people to own their growth as opposed to forcing growth upon them.  He donned mortality with whispers of his long-held belief that His role was to help, guide and support us along our way.  And this act, so gracious and all-encompassing, would be monumental in His and our journeys on this earth.  So I believe He walked into those trees purposefully, and without thought of turning back because He would not be willing to leave even one of us alone in our pain if we needed or wanted Him there to understand us.  And because His life would only hold 33 years of experience, He would have to take in a condensed dose of that understanding, there, in the garden.   Knowing the heartache He had already witnessed in His short life, I can see Him importuning heaven for any other way to accomplish this task.  As I think about the kind of experiences that would’ve been dealt Him in those moments, I can see how His very soul would bleed.  I imagine the raw, heavy, uncomfortable heartache would’ve been enough to bring Him to His knees.  But then to know that those experiences would be attached to individuals, souls He holds such beautiful love and high regard for, that must have been almost overwhelming agony.

As he went to check on Peter, I wonder what He was going to tell him.  I wonder if He was going to confide in him or offer him some idea of what that awful, lonely place was like.   But instead, he tried to help Peter see the importance of what was taking place.  I imagine it must’ve been kind of disappointing to find Peter sleeping.  Not because the Savior couldn’t understand exhaustion, but because that probably meant that Peter didn’t completely grasp what was going on.  With all of His teachings and intimations, Peter, at least was still not quite ready and prepared for these next few days and his slumber illustrated that.  But really, how could he be?  Had Peter, who had such a complete and enthusiastic love for the Savior, understood completely, doubtless he would’ve been watching and praying, both for the Savior and for himself.  Instead of explaining, Christ, ever-patient, would let Peter come to this knowledge on His own, as He often does.

I imagine it would’ve been hard to see Peter sleeping the second time because he was one of the few on whom the Savior was relying to share the poignancy of these moments.  Based on the records we have, it was the last time He would talk privately with Peter as a mortal man.  Doubtless He’d hoped the exchange would entail more wisdom than a request for alertness.  But the Savior knew Peter, and He knew that Peter loved Him with a pure and sometimes frantic love and that these next few days were going to be rough for him as well.  As the Savior made His way back into the garden, I wonder if he was considering how much Peter would miss Him?  I imagine that knowledge might’ve made His steps that much heavier.

As he walked out of the garden for the last time, and found Judas, what did He think?  Did He have that heavy feeling of awful anticipation in his stomach, knowing what was to come?  The atrocities of the day had been spelled out in prophecy pretty clearly but something about a lamb going to the slaughter suggests a measure of unknown.  He knew it would be Judas who would surrender Him and He had asked that it be done quickly.  He knew about the the thorns and the mocking, jeering crowds, the stripes, the vinegar, the raiment, and He knew about the cross.  Did He know how much it would hurt?

Did He know that beloved John, the infamous “other disciple,” would shamelessly accompany Him as He stood in halls of judgment before souls who just didn’t understand.  Again and again, He would endure whatever ugliness they would hurl at Him in word and bodily fluid.  Doubtless there were those who knew Him and still rejected Him but for many, I believe He was thinking the same thing he finally uttered about the guards (Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do).  What kind of love would it take to even look in the face of someone who was pounding a thick metal nail through your fragile, worn, miracle-working skin?  And then to have your beaten, exhausted body hauled up onto a cross, agonizingly bearing it’s own weight?  And yet that was the love He possessed, made evident by His actions before and after.  In those hours on the cross He took in all the pain around Him in addition to His own.  He addressed the fear of the thieves alongside Him, He sought to comfort His dear mother and beloved John in their inevitable grief.  He connected with His apostles and His disciples.  And then, when the veil was getting thin, He addressed His Father.  I would love to know what their reunion was like, after proclaiming his work done, and commending His soul home, what did Heavenly Father tell His Son?  What did the Savior convey to the Father about us and mortality?  We only have a small glimpse, the beginnings of what that conversation would entail and these are the words  “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”    I wonder sometimes if that is His argument for most of us in mortality.  It’s so hard to know principles the way Heaven knows them.   It’s hard to know each other the way Heaven knows us.  We struggle to understand Heaven and her grace from such a distance and so we struggle to offer Heaven and her grace to each other.  His words seem more idealogical than actual.  The soldiers must have known they were nailing a man to a cross.  The actions were not necessarily in question.  However, their understanding of what they were taking from the Earth and the pain they were inflicting on the most loving man to ever walk her trails, that was the thing He perceived that they didn’t understand.  And because they didn’t understand that they couldn’t understand Him.  I want to understand.

It’s Good Friday.   I’m thinking of Him.

With love,

Lindsay

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Puzzling

A religious leader who I love to listen to, by the name of Dieter F. Uchtdorf, once described coming to know Jesus Christ as a process similar to piecing together a puzzle.    He went on to describe the startling beauty of the moment when you have enough of the miniscule pieces in place that you can begin to see the image take shape.   I am still placing pieces for the likeness I’m creating over here but what do you think about the way these fit together?

I believe I lived with God before I was born and because God is love (1 John 4:8), I believe my soul knows what it feels like to bask in pure and gracious love.

I believe that God’s work is to give us the opportunity to choose to be like Him and He hopes to help us return to live with Him and thus have life eternally. (Moses 1:39)

In His intercessory prayer, the Savior says this: “Father, the hour is come; glorify thy Son, that thy son also may glorify thee: As thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him.  And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent.” (John 17:1-3)

I believe that knowing Him is eternal life and that earth’s physical and spiritual distance coupled with my inability to remember Him, enables me to work toward an understanding and knowledge of His characteristics that would be impossible to sort out while in His commanding presence.

I believe John’s words that “we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments.”  He says we can know that we know Him.   (1 John 2:3)

I don’t think we’re talking about just knowing what He expects of us.  I believe the goal of keeping the commandments is to know Him as a Personality, to understand how He feels about us, what principles guide His interactions and His creativity, and what His priorities are.  It’s the difference between knowing Him as a casual acquiantance or a treasured friend.  I believe that’s what the Savior meant when He talked about knowing Them.

And again, I have found Him most frequently as Love.

John also says, “But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected; hereby know we that we are in him.” (1 John 2:5)

I believe that to know Deity is to know and understand the pure love that the Father and Son exist in and offer us.   I believe that the definition of working toward Him is becoming more like Him and because the primary facet of His personality is love, my focus is on understanding and feeling the love that He has for me and those around me.

I believe that as I participate in this process of obeying Him and thus knowing Him, I can experience His all-consuming love which my soul desperately misses and by definition, I can know eternal life here. Now.

Brief musings on John

Have you ever wondered about John using the phrase “whom Jesus loved” in reference to himself?  In a New Testament class I was in, the teacher would joke that John felt pretty highly of himself and didn’t hesitate to remind us.  I would always laugh and I will admit to feeling a strong sense of inferiority when reading John’s writings for that very reason.  I was burdened with the idea that John was elevating himself above the me on the totem pole of the Savior’s regard so I instinctively gathered up all my insecurities and withdrew, casting a wary eye at his words. The trouble is, there is no totem pole.  It’s more like an ocean, vast and powerful and deep.  There may be times when we are especially attuned to the natural ebb and flow of it but there is absolutely no distinction between the Savior’s love for me or you or John.   The pull of it connects us to each other in sometimes humbling and magnificent displays.   There’s the possibility that it might send us crashing around each other but the idea is that we all re-group and rejoin the tide.   Sometimes it moves in mysterious ways and the sheer magnitude of it is profound.  I think John knew all of this and I think he’s actually banking on us figuring out that the Savior loving him is the Savior loving us.

Charitable Thoughts

It can take some mental climbing to slide our understanding of charity from something Heaven is demanding from us to something Heaven is offering to us.  I sincerely believe that during the moments we are experiencing the pure love of Christ, no one has to tell us what to do with it.  The act of offering it to others comes naturally and it’s quite a remarkable trail marker.

However, like I mentioned the other day, we all experience life uniquely and there’s an infinitely broad spectrum when it comes to even having a context for experiencing unconditional, Christ-like love.  Some of us have been or are in situations where receiving that kind of love is an idea shrouded by so much real-life awfulness that it seems almost impossible and yet we do our best to offer what we imagine it is to others.  Some of us have known the goodness of love and perhaps still struggle to accept the idea that the Savior could be as merciful and accepting as our families.  And then there are some of us who choose to disavow charity altogether and reject her very existence.  To be fair, most of us are just trying to improve at whatever place we’re at right?  We’re all somewhere on the spectrum of learning to love as He did and our collective goal is to move toward the Savior instead of away.  The personal implementations of those goals will be unique and I’m really interested in experiences other than my own.

So it seems prudent for us to find a beginning apart from ourselves.  A starting place to begin to grapple with charity and her virtues.   Paul, the roadside convert, filled letter after letter with life-altering thoughts about charity and I can’t help but think there were only a few people in scripture who knew charity as well as he did.  Like John in the New Testament, Isaiah in the Old, and Alma and Moroni, good men from a book of scripture I believe in called the Book of Mormon,  Paul speaks of charity with such surety and such vivid description and I know he had profound experiences with it.  He spent the rest of his life trying to use slippery words and sincere actions to convey it to others.  And I believe because all those men felt the grace-full influence of the Son of God, they explored every avenue for helping us understand it and feel it.

As Paul defines it, “Charity suffereth long and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; Rejoiceth not in iniquity but rejoiceth in the truth; Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.  Charity never faileth…”

To be clear, I am a fellow traveler, fighting the good fight right alongside you.  I claim no authority on this or any other topic and I have far from figured out the intricate details of that which I speak.  So my triumphs and failures in this endeavor look a lot like yours but my intent is to recognize the small morsels of charity that I am offered or that I am privy to so that I can better understand the love Christ is offering me.