Coming out, He went to the Mount of Olives, as He was accustomed, and His disciples also followed Him. When He came to the place, He said to them, “Pray that you may not enter into temptation.”
And He was withdrawn from them about a stone’s throw, and He knelt down and prayed, saying, “Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done.” Then an angel appeared to Him from heaven, strengthening Him. And being in agony, He prayed more earnestly. Then His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.
When He rose up from prayer, and had come to His disciples, He found them sleeping from sorrow. Then He said to them, “Why do you sleep? Rise and pray, lest you enter into temptation.”
I feel guilty for being this afraid. There: I said it. We are a week and a half away from Sam’s surgery, and there are minutes, hours, and sometimes whole days now when I feel paralyzed. I move, of course, and fulfill my duties as mom and wife. But I think in the last week, I have moved out of the realm of normal into “a stone’s throw” away. The marching has started. I am praying in the garden.
I think a lot about Joshua these days, as he readied himself and his people to march around Jericho. Really, it was a crazy idea. Literally. Crazy. But God gave them specific instructions: March around the city every day for six days with only the priests sounding their trumpets. On the seventh day, march seven times around the city with the priests blowing their trumpets, and then give the war cry. The walls of the city will collapse, and your troops will run in and take the city (my paraphrasing from Joshua 6:2-5).
So, God gave him these instructions. But did Joshua ever question them? Did he throw up that first morning behind his tent right before he walked out to lead his soldiers as they marched–not fought–around the city God had promised to deliver unto them? Did he shake? Did he need a drink–or a few–the night before? My guess is that he did. My guess is that he was as human as I am. And, even if he felt certain that God would make good on His promises, the physical reality of what he was about to do must have felt overwhelming. OVERWHELMING, like the current of a river that has overtaken you, like the Pacific’s waves crashing, tossing you just enough to make you panic, like a free-fall dream you can’t wake yourself up from.
If you read Joshua’s story and Jesus’, you’ll notice they have something very important in common: an angel visited each of them. We don’t get a lot of details, which is so frustrating to me because I really would like to know them. But, we do know that Joshua’s angel spoke to him: Now when Joshua was near Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with a drawn sword in his hand. Joshua went up to him and asked, “Are you for us or for our enemies?” “Neither,” he replied, “but as commander of the army of the Lord I have now come.” Then Joshua fell facedown to the ground in reverence, and asked him, “What message does my Lord have for his servant?” The commander of the Lord’s army replied, “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy.” And Joshua did so. Joshua 5:15
There is no record of what Jesus’ angel said to him. Perhaps that is because Jesus already knew what Joshua did not: that a stomach burning with anxiety, sweat falling in drops of blood, and the feeling that you are no longer in the realm of normal is, indeed, normal when you find yourself in Gethsemane. You ARE a “stone’s throw away” even from your most kindred, and as much as they love you, they cannot stand in this place for you. Just as the angel told Joshua, this is Holy Ground. This: blood, sweat, tears, and vomit. This is HOLY GROUND, where we come at our weakest and kneel before the Most High to submit a failing human heart to a plan much bigger than ME.
So I am grateful for the angel that delivered this understanding to me so that I can give myself ONE, BIG BREAK. I am a human mother who would gladly be split apart to spare my child. I am a human mother who racks and cries and would love to start cocktail hour at noon everyday. I am the human mother who stands in the kitchen, doing dishes, preparing meals, all the while praying, “Take this from him.” I am the human mother standing on Holy Ground, barefoot in my nightgown.
Take this brokenness, Lord, and bring down the walls of Jericho with it.
All my heart,