Despair stings sharply in the middle of the night. The darkness, void and yet full of fear and uncertain futures, is a claustrophobic absence of light, never ending, a mockery of eternity.
The journey towards Calvary begins, in some ways, in Gethsemane. Knowing what’s to come, Jesus retreats there to pray, even as the despair begins to bite. He knows that things will end in violence, in pain, he knows that one of his friends is now on his way to commit the ultimate treason, and so he walks through the garden, praying from the depths of his soul. He wipes his brow and the back of his hand feels wet with blood. This is sorrow; this is despair; this is stress and anxiety and fear and all the things we’re told that, as good Christians, we shouldn’t be faithless enough to feel. That dismissal, that abandonment, is just another blow; too many of us sleep, like the disciples, and miss the agony of those before us, the stories of worry and fear that surround us.
Still Jesus prays, desperate prayers, desperate for a Plan B. He knows what’s coming, knows that he’should about to meet the Cross and the nails, the scourge and the punches of men just following orders, the disappearance of those who’d been at his side for three years; now his prayers bounce off the ceiling, or at least a canopy of leaves. Later he will find strength to take the next step, and the next, and the next, the walk of a condemned man towards his execution. But let’s pause here, in Gethsemane; don’t sleep, don’t turn away, don’t theologise. Pause and reflect, reflect on the spiritual suffering of a young man weeping in a garden alone, reflect on how this is also the suffering of God in some ineffable way, reflect on how God now weeps with us and knows us in our darkest times.
The journey starts here, more in despair than hope. How like so many of our own journeys; how like so many of our gardens.
The other posts in this series can be found here.