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Lonely Garden – a Maundy Thursday reflection

A lonely garden
Draped in a starry night
A soul ripped apart
Yet not my will but yours
His spirit shrieks his fear
His fear shatters his soul
His body trembles
Overwhelmed with the weight
Of us

Yet perfect love streams through the night
Casting waves of freedom
And the garden is alive with whispers of hope
And our fear is contained
Within the wild borders of holy treasure

Liz Carter 2020

I wrote this poem for Maundy Thursday and wanted to share some reflections on these words with you today. It’s a strange Holy Week this year, with all of us adrift in a sea of uncertainty, with that wrench in our guts every day as we see numbers climb and lives lost. It’s a time of loneliness for so many, and reminds me of Jesus’ stark loneliness in the Garden of Gethsemane on the night of the first Maundy Thursday.

A lonely garden
Draped in a starry night

They went to a place called Gethsemane, and Jesus said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.”

Mark 14:32

They’d shared supper together. Jesus had laid out some of the road ahead, yet they did not understand. Not then. They did not comprehend the sheer agony of what Jesus faced. And so in the garden, with his dear friends, Jesus walked into a great loneliness. Even as he prayed his friends fell asleep, though he’d asked them to keep watch. Alone and afraid, Jesus bowed his heavy head.

A soul ripped apart

He began to be deeply distressed and troubled. “My soul is overwhelmed to the point of death”, he said to them.

Mark 14:33-34

He knew what was coming. He knew enough about crucifixion to grasp something of what the physical torture would be like. He knew suffering was coming and he knew it would be like nothing he could ever even imagine, because it wasn’t just his body that would be under the most extreme pressure. His soul was overwhelmed because he knew it was his soul that would be utterly crushed.

He bowed his head.

Yet not my will but yours

Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me;
Yet not my will, but yours be done.

Luke 22:41-42

A moment that changed history. A decision of the will, a choice to go into thick darkness. He bowed his head, he knelt on the ground, and he surrendered to the will of his Father. So human in his distress and wish to take this pain away, yet so divine in holy abandon. In perfect love.

His spirit shrieks his fear
His fear shatters his soul
His body trembles
Overwhelmed with the weight
Of us

And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.

Luke 22:43-44

A stark picture of the greatest soul agony imaginable. Sweat in drops of blood falling to the lonely ground in the lonely garden, his anguish a wave of utter despair. And so we can know that in our pain and in our sorrow we have a God who understands the great boundaries of it, who comprehends the depths of emotion and of horror we face in our lonely gardens. Jesus’ great anguish is our great comfort. Jesus’ stark fear gives us a place to run in our stark fear. Jesus’ prayer of despair is our prayer of hope. Jesus, the God of glory, flung to the dust of a lonely garden, sweeps up and embraces all our darkness.

Yet perfect love streams through the night
Casting waves of freedom
And the garden is alive with whispers of hope
And our fear is contained
Within the wild borders of holy treasure

Are you still sleeping and resting? Look, the hour is near…

Matthew 26:45

For Jesus, the time has come. The hour is here, and his friends still sleep, unconscious of his agony of spirit. But he wakes them. He nudges them into action.

And they don’t know it, but through the lonely garden comes a whisper. An echo of something more, a reverberation of hope. As Jesus goes forward into his dark path, perfect love weaves through the night, a love so impossibly wide and deep, and high and long. A love more profound than the greatest of human love, a love stronger than death, a love that all the rivers and all the oceans cannot quench.

And we don’t always know it, but through our lonely gardens this whisper of love curls through the air and encircles the pain in us. As we walk our paths, perfect love sings through the night and holds tight our own fears and our own anguish. Our dismay is shattered beyond the borders of our own imaginations, and gathered up in the great and wild borders of God, who is beyond the borders we know.

May you hear the whispers of hope in your lonely gardens today,
Whether you are in isolation, or shielding, or walking the ravages of the frontline.
May you know the song of love that gathers up the shattered pieces of you
And find liberation in the man who sweat drops of blood
For you.

We don't always know it, but through our lonely gardens a whisper of love curls through the air and encircles the pain in us. Reflections on Maundy Thursday. Click To Tweet

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