Thursday, September 1, 2011

The amazing proof

The house is quiet.  After a flurry of activity yesterday and today, the girls have driven away again with their cars packed within an inch of their lives.  I've spent two days covering pillows, a papasan chair cushion, and generally making a nuisance of myself by asking mom-like questions of them.  It's been a blast.  But now there are only the dregs of their lives left in their rooms.   Left for the next time they come flying in for a night. 

So I sit alone in our house with two droopy dogs, whose heads got lower and lower in the last 24 hours as they realized those rooms were emptying out altogether. And what a sight as E walked out the door for the last time.  Jackson wouldn't even walk down the steps to say goodbye, and Jamaica's Spaniel ears were practically dragging on the cement floor of the carport.  That much sadness emanated from them.  Poor, non-comprehending puppies. 

But, as my elementary-school-teacher mother was wont to say, " 'The time has come,' the walrus said." And that's the truth of it.  The time has come.   And these sad pups will get used to it.  Maica stays so close to me right now that she continually bumps my hand with her uplifted nose as we walk down the hall.  She needs the reassurance that at least I'm not going anywhere.  And even though she can see me, she just had to touch me with her doggy nose to feel safe, I guess.  It's sweet and sad all at once, so I allow my left arm (the side she always walks on, for some peculiar reason) to swing by my leg, just for her.  I understand her need and it's a simple enough thing to soothe her in this small thing.

We're a whole lot like my droopy, needy Springer Spaniel, I think.  There are so many times when we feel alone, and in need of simple soothing, the touch of a hand against our heads.  We need the reassurance that we aren't alone in this world, that there is someone walking down the halls of our lives with us, close enough to bump into at every step. 

And sometimes we can't quite believe that there is.  Even we who know the Truth, who have been ushered into the great banquet, and are part of the Kingdom, sometimes feel left out in the cold.  Alone.  Lonely.  But I think that loneliness is fundamentally human.  In fact, Jesus Himself--because He was human--experienced loneliness. The gospels speak of Him withdrawing to lonely places to pray, which implies that loneliness isn't a negative thing but a prerequisite to real communion with God. And specifically, He went out to that loneliest of places--Gethsemane--the most important night of His life, facing the cross.  We make the mistake of never getting alone when we're in crisis.  We stay in crowds so that we don't have to think about whatever it is, and surround ourselves with people. But we can't face our Gethsemanes in the bustle of daily life, or even with our closest friends.  We have to get alone.  Too many of us (including me) make the mistake of NEVER getting alone with God, where we can be our most honest and raw selves.

Jesus also needed his friends.  The way Jamaica needs me, Jesus needed his friends.  This is a pretty radical idea, if you think it through to the end.  We think of our need for Him, but rarely of His need for us.  Some might say it was the human part of Jesus that needed his friends that night.  But I'm not so sure we can divide Jesus in half anymore than we can divide a person into the two sides of his/her family tree.  One moment, I'm all my dad's child, the next only my mom's.  It makes no sense.  Jesus was an organic whole.  Perfectly human and perfectly divine.  And it was all of Him who needed His friends.  The INCARNATE GOD needed friends the night before He went to the cross, went willingly to His own death for theirs' and all the rest of ours' salvation.  It's a radical idea to think that Jesus--that God--needs us...well, ever! But the Garden surely shows us this is true.

And they let Him down.  They failed Him.  In fact, they let their eyes droop and their heads nod off, and He had to face that night on His own.  Three times He comes back to His friends, and each time they're sleeping.  The one thing He asked them that night--"Stay here and watch with me!"--and they fail at it.

But here's the thing, we've all been these friends.  To Jesus and to others.  We've failed our friends.  I have.  Sometimes appallingly so.  But still He asks.  It's into my smelly, sinful, dead-asleep life that Jesus comes and returns and asks me to participate with Him, even after I fail and fail and fail.  It's to you that He comes and says, "I need you," even when you look at yourself in the mirror and think you aren't worth looking at.

Because here's the clencher: He needed his friends, who let Him down.  He returns over and over, and they continue to sleep. And He has every reason to turn from the onorous, deadly task at hand.  But He goes to it.  As if He was made for it, which, of course, He was.  It doesn't matter how lonely He'd been in the night, how much He wished for one of them to 'watch for just one hour,' He still loves them enough.  His love is enough.  Enough for your failure in friendship and for mine.  His love is enough for all our failures.  That's the story here.

Gethsemane is Jesus at his most human, but Jesus at exactly the same moment God.  This is Word made flesh. "Please, take this cup from me," He prayed, His raw pain, and bloody sweat.  But He ends in deep, true surrender."Not my will, but Yours," He said. When Jesus surrendered, God answered.  The answer was NO!  The cup was not taken from Jesus. Thankfully, gloriously, perfectly, the answer was NO. There was suffering and death in that NO, but also glory and salvation for the world in God's will being done. 

It all began in a lonely place.  But ended in our salvation.  Lift your head to be soothed by this.The amazing proof of God's love is this, that while we were still sinners--while we were failing our friends (including, or especially, HIM!)--Christ died for us. Romans 5:8

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