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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Beginning to Build VI: Connecting learning through time

Some of us are inhabiting or adding on to structures that have been built on Christ for ages.  Some of us are remodeling or starting with a small foundation.  Others of us are feeling brave and just drawing up plans as we tentatively venture out to the Rock for the first time.  In the chain of stories I just mentioned, each individual’s experience with God offered at least one principle or piece of understanding that was then available to future inhabitants of that house of faith.  The lessons and experiences were documented and passed on.  When viewed with a bit of distance, the mistakes just become places where intense and oftentimes beautiful learning happened.

I love the idea that we are connected to our families through generations of learning.  My own life and testimony are a small, but integral, link in a chain through time.  I am very aware that the faith I inherited did not come to me without effort.  I believe the knowledge of the Savior that I have and the principles that bring me joyfully to Him constitute a gift that was painstakingly pieced together and very diligently offered by those who came before me.  Because change and improvement often come slowly, I recognize that this gift of faith was compiled by generations of dear people and I am striving mightily to become better and give my daughter an improved version of that same goodness in her life.   That’s the idea right?  Some days my efforts don’t amount to much and sometimes the work seems so strenuous that I wonder if what we have is enough but in the end, I (usually :)) keep trying to move us forward.  Ultimately, I believe all those who came before me and worked on the foundation for my faith, stand to benefit from where we all end up because they are part of the reason we made it there.

I recognize that we come from varying backgrounds and some of us are trying to build from musty or abandoned houses of faith.   For people in these situations, how is this building going for you?  How does this thought sit with you?  I imagine you’re laboring under different burdens and sweating in the hot sun as you work, with the hope of weaving strength, forgiveness and understanding into the walls of your improved dwellings.  I’m interested in your perspective too.

Lindsay

Ramifications of Relationship Glasses part I

When viewed through the lens of relationships, earth and her occupants take on an entirely different aura.  The relationship we cultivate with our self entails coming to know what our gifts and interests are, as well as realizing the areas we could use some improvement.  Our relationship with Heaven entails us bringing the uniqueness that we possess to the Savior and as we come to know Him, our ability to perpetuate goodness in our relationships with ourselves and others is enhanced.  It seems like often times we talk about trying to become like the Savior and I am party to that quest but I prefer to think of it as coming to know the Savior.  The natural outcome of sincerely knowing Him is a desire to be like Him as we experience His loving grace in our lives.  Instead of all of us seeking to become the same person, I think we’re all seeking to come to the same person and who we are with Him is the treasure we’ll begin to unearth.  It’s a simple difference but the shift is substantial because it removes competition from the endeavor.  We are no longer gauging our progress against someone else’s, we’re learning to see the beautiful mile-markers in our own journey to Him.  And as we are party to His grace, we will recognize more and more of the ways that He relates to us uniquely, as individuals.  With that growing foundation, we are then free to appreciate the beautiful aspects of His relationships with others without feeling threatened by them.  You may even decide to get yourself some rose-colored relationship glasses once you realize how much charity is flying around.

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.

Let Him love you

Because I’ve had glimpses of what love from Heaven feels like and my soul seems to wake a bit more with each encounter,  I am anxious to understand how to feel that love more completely in my life.  I believe that feeling the dependable love offered by the Father and Son, either from Them or from another person is the single-most motivating force in life.  The sticky part is that we’re all in different places when it comes to understanding what charity looks like and feels like.  Consequently, we’re all in different places when it comes to offering that charity to each other.   I think for the most part, that’s what we’re trying to do though, love each other the way He would.

I believe that our ability to love ourselves the way Heaven loves us is crucial to being able to offer that same genuine love to others.  In fact, I believe understanding how much God loves each of us individually is the surest way to  offer charity to our fellow sojourners.  I believe having a few minutes each day to bask in that love fills the holes in our constantly draining self-worth and leaves us overflowing with gratitude to share.

Shortly before the Savior was arrested and crucified, in his final mortal hours with His apostles, He shared some poignant moments with them and touched on this topic.  When I imagine the concluding scenes of that night, I imagine some confusion on their part as He talks to them about going somewhere they can’t follow.  He knows that they can’t possibly comprehend what’s about to occur and yet He tries to prepare them as best as He can.  I imagine sincerity and heaviness on His part, knowing what He’s about to undertake and knowing that it will be painful for them as well.  I see His eyes filled with compassion and perhaps a few tears as He approaches each man in turn, removes his dusty sandals and proceeds to wash the odorous, cracked, and worn feet.  I see Him being methodical and thorough and gentle.  I wonder if He conversed with them while He worked.  I wonder if they shared memories of the previous 3 years, speaking of moments they’d shared or the ways each man had changed.   As He continued His counsel, He asked them to love one another as He had loved them.   I think sometimes the first part of that quote from Him gets the most attention and we’re eager to counsel each other about loving others the way Christ would but we’re not as quick to understand how that love is there for each of us-ours for the taking.   Don’t misunderstand, I think the learning is bi-directional and by offering help to others, we learn charity, but it’s so much easier to do if you let yourself feel the love He has for you.  My goal in this space is to dive into that love in great detail because I think many of us don’t realize the how deep and refreshing those waters are.  Instead of binding us to a certain code of conduct, the experience of charity frees us because we finally have a conduit to heaven and our decisions can be made with more clarity and purpose.  So in an effort to soothe us all with a bit more of that love, imagine yourself in that room with the Savior that last night.  He was about to perform the greatest act of love that He could in the atonement but since my brain has yet to stretch far enough to fully comprehend that, I find Him just as, if not more loving in his more mortal actions because I can relate to them.  Imagine having watched Him perform miracle after miracle for person after unique person.  But more than the miracles, imagine having watched Him interact with the people.  Imagine Him looking intently into weary eyes or  stooping to talk and smile with a child.  Imagine Him weeping with a friend or offering a crust of bread to a beggar.  Imagine all those things from our kind and gracious Lord, and then think of the scripture, love one another as I have loved you.  We’re not talking about a directive as much as we’re talking about a feeling.  It’s as if He’s saying ‘Take this, take what I have given you, this knowledge of how to be loved and to love, internalize it and remember it, know that this is the most important thing you can share of me.  When I’m gone, this is how you will recognize My influence and this is how you will acquaint others with Me.”

Are you still with me?   Yeah, there you are, that’s you, moving a little closer to Him.  Let Him love you.

The Pest Control Parable

Last summer we had an ant dilemma.  It began with a few ants parading in around the back door but quickly escalated into ants emerging from every crevice in the kitchen and pantry.  At that point, we determined that our efforts were no match for the foe we were facing so we called in an expert.  A kind and grandfatherly man showed up on our doorstep the next day and he proceeded to patiently and systematically address the inroads the ants had made.  The process began with a few kitchen bait traps and as the ants began to move and shift we resorted to a whole-house approach.  This caught me by surprise and one day I remember sitting at the kitchen table feeling defeated and anxious about what our pest control hero was finding as he dug into every closet nook and filthy bathroom corner of our home, baiting and trapping the ants that were troubling us.  I was relatively certain he was upstairs cursing me under his breath for having to dig through my messes and for my neglect of what must be routine maintenance in most homes.  After sitting in my shame for a few minutes, I remembered 3 things about his last visit. 1) He said that in his 30+ years in the pest control business he’d seen it all and there was very little that would surprise him.  2) In our conversations, he had always been respectful of others, even when describing worst-case scenarios.  3) He was kind.  And even though that didn’t change the state of my medicine cabinet, it did give me pause.  When I remembered who I was dealing with, the scathing judgments I had attributed to him began to melt away.  I realized that we were both committed, regardless of the cost, to achieving the same end result. I found a measure of peace in the knowledge that my cluttered bathroom cabinets may not be the anomaly I thought they were.  And I wondered if, after years of working elbow-deep in grime, you become less shocked by it are thus able to be even more efficient and compassionately focused on the restorative work at hand.

It was brought to my attention that this entry deserves a post script.  As I contemplated the above-referenced experience, I was jarred by the familiarity of those feelings of inadequacy.  Inevitably, when I find myself at odds with heaven I am embarrassed and ashamed at the state of my spirituality.  I am hesitant to approach Deity with the dusty corners of my soul because I anticipate the Savior offering me disappointment or consternation as I detail my shortcomings and ask for His assistance to clear away my failures.  I think it’s an age old, universal aspect of mortality-the immediate inclination to withdraw our imperfect mortal selves when faced with the grandeur of Heaven.  But when I really give it some thought and remember what I know about Jesus Christ, I remember that there is no disobedience or pride that He’s not intimately acquainted with.  He has seen it all and what’s more asks, perhaps even begs, us to bring Him more of whatever “it” is if that means easing our burdens.  He will never, not even for the grossest misdeed, be surprised by anything because His whole life was devoted to understanding us.  My realization at the kitchen table reminded me of the gracefulness of what He’s really offering.  He simply wants me to ask for help, for anything, no matter how big or small and He will immediately and kindly dive in with me and help me to work my way back in whatever ways I have strayed.  I recall his absolute compassion and kindness towards everyone who approaches Him for help, no matter the distance, no matter the deed.   And as soon as I choose to approach Him and let Him help me, I remember, again and again, that it’s simply love and compassion that He issues to the penitent, not guilt and judgment.  The point is that when I’m distanced from Him, even just a little bit, my memory of those characteristics is cloudy and it can be hard for me to feel brave enough to approach Him.  Thus, I continually seek to know Him better so that I don’t mistake what He is offering.