Written by Cassie Chase
Lord, how do you want me to prepare to celebrate your death during Lent this year?
Go into the garden my dear and watch with me in the disquieting place between hope and despair. WATCH HOW I PREPARE a table before you in the presence of your enemies and come and FEAST. Do not fear when the fog blurs your spiritual vision, for I have thoughtfully scattered “Forget Me Not” along the path whose aroma will gently guide you back to my table.
When I spent time meditating on what this might look like- feasting in the presence of my enemies – I asked the Lord to show me what keeps me from feasting at His table. Jesus gently called my attention back to the garden. This time it was watching Him ask His disciples to WATCH and PRAY with Him, but their sorrow of heart exhausted them and put them to sleep (Matt. 26:36-43). This scene in Scripture makes me both frustrated and yet equally grieved. I’m so frustrated at them for how quick they are to forget, quick to turn to their flesh and turn their back on Jesus. They not only see Him in His anguish but He tells them He is “..even to death” and they do what (vs.38)? Fall asleep? What’s so frustrating and which grieves me to the point of tears, is that Jesus was showing that was me.
My default response in the flesh is to disengage when conflict arises. But Jesus asked His disciples to REMAIN with Him, WATCHING and PRAYING with Him (vs. 38-39). Three active commands that involve being ENGAGED. What would it looked like if the disciples obeyed Jesus and watched and prayed with Him? What would they have learned from that experience? How might their life have looked differently because of it?
Ron Rolheiser says that “what the disciples were supposed to grasp…was the intrinsic connection between suffering and transformation and the necessity, in that process, of being willing to carry tension, disappointment, and unfairness without giving into despair, bitterness, recrimination, and the urge to give back in kind.”
Jesus has been gently inviting me again and again into this place where hope and despair collide and each time is met with greater mystery yet greater peace. The more I engage in that space with Him, the stronger the bookends grow. The sorrows grow into hauntings and the hopes are what breathe life into my veins. But yet, Jesus is asking me to hold both in view.
“YOU PREPARE A TABLE BEFORE ME IN THE PRESENCE OF MY ENEMIES”(Psalm 23:5a.)
This part of the Psalm is not said to be along the still calm waters, but in the presence of my enemies. To be engaged with the feasting at His table, I need to be engaged with my enemies. I need to be alert, watch, and pray, as He said to His disciples, that I may not fall into temptation.
“We fall asleep out of sorrow whenever we become so confused and overwhelmed by some kind of disappointment that we begin to act out of hostility, rather than love, paranoia rather than trust, despair rather than hope. We fall asleep out of sorrow whet we sell short what’s highest in us because of the bitterness of the moment”(Ron Rolheiser).
I was walking with my mom the other day and it became obvious quickly to the both of us that the presence I was giving her in that moment was one in conservation mode. I aired out my sorrows and frustrations that I currently had as a defense to subconsciously let her know that I wasn’t responsible for why I couldn’t love her any better. I was surely not feasting at that moment, but instead, settling for something far worse. My mom sorrowfully told me later how she went home after the walk telling dad that the joy of the Lord that amply supplied my feast previously, had left the scene. How quick I am to forget. Jesus was revealing to me how when I’m not living through the lens of feasting- joy, gratitude, hospitality, love, self-control, etc… – are not the overflow of my heart.
Jesus has given me some pretty awesome friends who have not been overwhelmed with my pain and are willing to actively sit in that disquieting place with me. He’s given me my mom, my messenger of hope, strengthening my frame to keep seeking His face. He’s given me Dot, my dear adopted grandma. Though her memory may be fleeting, the Lord gave her a husband who adorns her table weekly with flowers to remind her of the feast set before her. Though her memory be fleeting, she’s well acquainted with Jesus’s countenance and can engage with each emotion that I behold. She weeps, rejoices, and prays with me. And as we walk hand in hand we always find ourselves singing together…
“…and He walks with me and He talks with me and He tells me I am His own. And the joy we share as we tarry there, none other has ever known”
My dear brothers and sisters, will you join us in the garden? There’s a feast to be had!