Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Nevertheless

One of my favorite words in the gospels is not found in most translations anymore, but it's the word of the day for me. In fact, it might be one of my top five words in life. The word is, "Nevertheless."
As in, "Father, please take this cup from me; nevertheless, not my will but yours be done." From the way that sentence flows, one might think that 'nevertheless' is easily come by, but we know from the context that it's hard won, wrung out after a night face down with God, sweated out with blood. That's hard-fought, my friends, as hard fought as any word we ever say.
And yet it's the strongest word Jesus ever said, the word--the very word on which our salvation turned. From that sentence on, He closed His mouth to any questions of God's will, to any road but to the cross, and soon enough, to any words at all. Surrender of His life for the life of the world.

I thought of this word last night as I watched the presidential candidates make speeches on television. (If you watched, you'll have noticed that the crowds increased by size and noise volume with each candidate. By the time Barack Obama finished speaking, it was ear-splittingly-loud...wow, can that man preach it! But that's a different story.) Politicians, by their genetic make-up, aren't inclined to surrender, it should be noted. And some of them, by personality, style, and the specific nature of their specific moment in history, are less inclined to relinquish what they've fought so hard to believe about themselves, this country, the world at large. I watched that last night when Senator Clinton spoke. Through out her whole speech, thanking her supporters, speaking of what she's learned from them, her gratitude for them and their stories, her promise to fight for them, I waited for a 'nevertheless.' I imagined how strong that would make her, how that surrender might actually raise her up by the relinquishing of her grip on those votes, 'her people', that power. But she didn't let go. In fact, surrender seemed the farthest thing from her mind last night. In the face of seemingly immutable facts, she still couldn't surrender her phenomenally strong will that had brought her such an historic distance. That will had brought her a very long distance, but in the end, it couldn't control the outcome, it couldn't make things go the way she wanted. She had gotten to the place--she was in the Garden, really--where all she could say was, "nevertheless." And she just couldn't do it.

It might be easy to point a finger at someone in such a position. Except that I do the same thing all the time. I stand in front of God and everyone--well, in front of God, anyway--and refuse to face the salient facts in life: that I cannot control my own life. To take it a step farther, I should NOT control my own life. God Himself asks me to die to myself. To go to the Garden, cry tears, and sweat blood and then surrender my will to His. I have to get there. You have to get there. We all do. Every single one of us has Garden of Gethsemane moments in our lives where we must say, "Nevertheless not my will but yours be done." And in that moment--that very instant, what benefits, what great joys will come. Or what crosses. Who knows what will come of it? God alone knows what He asks of us. He knew what was ahead for Jesus, and the price was terrible, indeed. But the result was us. You and me. And He did not count it too high a price. 'Costly grace,' is how Deitrich Bonhoeffer puts it.

What does He require of you? What have you been holding onto that you must go to the Garden and surrender? This isn't optional for a true disciple of Jesus Christ. It's in the way of the disciple. Anything less is simply--well, less. I'm not saying it's easy. Are you kidding me? The Garden of Gethsemane is the most difficult place we ever go as disciples. Surrender is the hardest thing we ever do. But once we do it the first time, the next time (and there is always a next time, and next time, and time after that) becomes slightly (though only fractionally, to be realistic) easier. We grow comfortable relinquishing our lives to Jesus. We have to. When you think about it, who is in a better position to do best by us--ourselves or the God of the universe who actually created us? Looking at it that way, you'd think it would be a piece of cake, as the Beve would say. But unfortunately, we're all a little like Hillary Clinton--we all want to hold onto what we think we've earned, what we view as our dream, our right, and our will. I've made a hash of my life a time or two doing this--well, a time or a hundred, doing this. Maybe I'll get it right about the time I see Him face to face. But I'll still keep opening my eyes every morning and saying, "Nevertheless."

Nevertheless, Your will be done.

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