Sweating Blood

Being in Holy Week has made me think more on Jesus moments in the garden during prayer. I could not even begin to work through the theological debates surrounding Jesus prayer in the garden, and that is not my goal in this post. In these moments we see a beautiful moment in Jesus where he is legitimately facing the weight of the burden he is beginning to carry.

The pressure is enormous. This is a powerful moment. This has been the moment on my mind this past week. It has not stuck out to me for its theological conundrums of Jesus asking for the cup to pass him. It is not even primarily from the fact that he willingly chooses to follow God’s will. It is the humanity to it all the has captivated me.

In this moment I am struck with the reality of it being ok to recognize that hardship exists. Scripture says Jesus was sweating great drops of blood. This is what the world would call weakness. Some would even say fearful. Can Jesus even be afraid? Is that really a thing? Those questions have been running through my head. What really is fear though? We treat it in a negative context because it is often something that controls our actions and behavior. This is an obvious problem, but should that deny us the right to acknowledge when things are difficult?

I have felt surrounded at times over the past few weeks to be encouraged to ignore how difficult things are. Don’t pay attention to the burning building because God is watching out for you. Here is the thing, it is true God is watching out for me. I have no reason to believe He will abandon me. However, it doesn’t change that I might be in a point in life where things are just difficult, maybe even unfair.

Jesus in the garden reminds us that it is ok to recognize when hardship is entering your life. Jesus felt the pain of what he was going to experience. He knew it would be unimaginable to anyone else. Yet he persevered. Anyone can walk into a burning building that they are forced to believe is not coming down. It is the one who runs into the inferno as the roof is collapsing that is showing true grit. Maybe you are reading this through a time of difficulty. Perhaps the world is telling you to pull yourself up by the bootstraps, and move along. Maybe the ones saying that are even the people causing you difficulty. I would suggest a different piece of advice. Go into the garden and be transparent. Sweat drops of blood. Call out this period of life for what it is. Name it as a hardship. Once you do that you can look up and give it over to God. I think that is what Jesus has been teaching me through this moment in His life throughout this week. I can only give something up to God when I willingly acknowledge how painful it really is.

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The road

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking on the journey of the individual. It’s a journey with twists and turns. It’s a journey full of adventure and danger. Every journey requires a road. At times it may not look like much of a road. There are times where the road may even appear to be nonexistent. However, every good adventure story requires a journey, and every good journey requires a road.

There is a book I have been reading during my hiatus from posting in the midst of Christmas vacation. It’s called “On the Shoulders of Hobbits: the Road to Virtue with Tolkien and Lewis”. The first section of the book is simply discussing the road on our journey. The author points out that in our story the road itself is an actual character. It has its own life and personality, its own plot twists, and even its own emotions.

A few weeks ago I had the privilege to meet with an old professor of mine. He reminded me of a lesson he often repeated in the classroom. God cares about the process in our journey. We forget that. We remain so focused on the end result that we forget the importance of the process that our journey has. It is a process that is guaranteed to at times be painful and frustrating. Many times it will seem unclear in the moment.

Moses had to go through a process. We forget how much waiting was involved for Moses before he ever even went to free God’s people. God had him live out in the wilderness as a shepherd for years before he finally decided he was ready. We take that part of the story for granted because we don’t see the details in that part of the story. We don’t see the lessons of virtue, leadership, kindness, and morality that Moses grew to understand during that time.

What about Joseph. He went form one bad situation to the next after receiving a dream of the end result. Yet God had him wait as a slave to a man, and then as a prisoner. Why all the waiting? God was training Joseph up to prepare him for his final hour. I wonder what would have happened if Joseph refused to relent to the process of growth. What if he decided to jump off the road God had placed him on because he could not possibly see how this would end with a glorious conclusion to his story?

That’s just it though. Since when was the process of Joseph journey only about his story? Since when was our process in the journey only applicable to our own story? We assume we are the chief character in this little play, but in reality we are s single thread in a grand tapestry that extends beyond all time and understanding. The process is important in our personal journey, because God uses our personal journey to help tell a much grander story.

Moses following the road he was placed on lead to the rescue of God’s people. It lead to a time where they would enter into the promised land even though Moses would never witness this end. Joseph’s road lead to the salvation of God’s people in the midst of famine so that one day Moses would then come to bring to the land they were promised. Two men who lived generations apart, but whose journeys are woven together in a way neither could have ever predicted.

Why is this concept so important for you and me? I confess this post is a little heavier on the mind than others. It is more abstract and does not focus on something concrete that we can sink our teeth into right away. What then is the real purpose to this post?

Perhaps it is simply this. We are on the road we are on for reasons beyond our own personal story. It is a road that will inevitably be filled with twists and turns. It will be full of danger and enemies. It will be filled with those who wish to hurt you, and scattered with those who will show you compassion and tenderness. It is a road where you will at times wish to leave. It is a road that will dare you to walk down it when it seems failure waits at the end of it. It is also a road full of adventure and growth. It is a road mean to prepare you for your final hour. It is a road meant to remind you that you are not quite meant for this world. It is a road paved with a cross. It is the only road worth traveling because for all of its darkness it is the only road that will lead you into your final hour worth having. It is the only road that will extend your story beyond yourself and into a beautiful tapestry that will make your life more than just a story. This is the road that makes legends.

Trust in the Lord of the road, and delight in His process of maturing you into being the stuff of legends.

The focus on the present

Finally back to put up some posts again. The past few days have been both exciting and crazy. My wife and I have been home since Saturday as we try and get used to this new phase of life. It’s been a crazy one. Watching my son in his first few days of life has already helped me see things differently, and sometimes just a little more clearly.

Newborn infants can be pretty demanding. Their mood can change without a moment’s notice. It can almost get to be a little overwhelming. While in the hospital nurses would need to check Ezra at different points and do random tests to make sure everything was in order. Sometimes it involved cold metal objects being place on his skin while other times it required a needle being stuck in his skin. He hated it with a passion. In those moments the only thing he could focus on was the pain and uncomfortable nature of the event. He would fight hard to keep people from doing what they needed to do to him. He was entirely engrossed in the moment.

We tend to be like this with hardships in life. Sometimes it is through a crisis in life over a loved one. Other times we desperately seek Gods direction with what seems to be no clear answer. Sometimes we just face a hard trial through the loss of work, death, illness, etc. In those moments all we ever seem to do is focus on the hardship. We fail to look past it and remind ourselves that this event is serving a purpose.

When those tests were being done on Ezra they were being performed for a purpose. It was to ensure his good health. Those hardships were used to protect him, and make him stronger. The thing was that I could try and explain this to Ezra all day long, but he would be simply incapable of understanding it. The only choice he has in the end is to trust that his parents will be there for him, hug him afterwards, and keep him safe in the end. It requires a remarkable amount of dependence on his part, and a large amount of patience on mine.

Sometimes I think even if God tried to explain to us the reason for our hardship in the moment we would not be able to really understand it. Sometimes we are too focused on the pain of the present that the future is impossible to comprehend. It is in those moments that we simply need to stop to breath and trust in God. His patience towards us in those moments has to be astronomical. Imagine how much more effective our hardships would be if we took those moments to lean on God and depend entirely on Him.

I may not understand why some of the things happen to me. I don’t even understand everything that is happening to me in my current stage of life. However, I am ok with not understanding. I am going to trust that God is uses my hardships to lead me down a new road that He has set up for me. I guarantee you you will not always understand, but I can always guarantee you that you will come through when you depend on the one who fully understands.