I feel like, to some very small degree, that I was prepared to live as a widow. People talk about that life. You know when you meet someone, when you marry someone, that at some point one or the other of you is going to live to see the other one die. That made sense to me. But to grieve the loss of someone who is sitting beside you who is just not able to be himself any longer? That’s not something I was prepared for, nor is it something I could’ve been prepared for even if I had known it was coming. Some things in life you have to live to understand. This is one of them.
Today, because it’s Good Friday, I’ve been thinking about the dark part of what it’s been like to live in such awareness that death is always looming. I’ve been thinking about what it must have been like for Christ to choose to be born into the human reality of suffering beyond what any of us could imagine. He knew, you see. He knew the suffering was coming, the darkness he was going to face, the separation and angst, the grief his earthly family would live, the sorrow His Heavenly Father would endure. He knew.
And yet He came. And yet He chose. And yet He loved.
I’m more grateful for Good Friday this year, because I understand oh so slightly what it must have been like for Christ to live always knowing. It’s a hard road, this brain tumor path. It isn’t smooth. It isn’t a path well worn from travelers’ steps before us. It’s a steep uphill climb on a foot wide path along rocky terrain with precipices on both sides. It is unnervingly easy to slip. But we have a good guide who knows the path well, because He’s traveled it. It’s known to Him intimately. He makes certain our feet land in the firmest of places and ensures we find handholds to grasp as we go. Sometimes in this life, we travel down dark paths into knowns that are terrifying. We beg the Lord to take our bitter cup; we beseech Him, on behalf of this great love everyone says He has for us, to heal the people we cherish, to do what we see as the answer to all of our current problems. Sometimes, He moves swiftly. Sometimes, He does not. Sometimes, He asks us to walk the known-to-Him path so that we can know the depths of His sacrifice for us further still, so that we can understand that His great love for us is found along the dark path He willingly took.
In the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus prayed three times that the Lord would take the cup of suffering and sacrifice from Him. Three times He asked and three times He followed that request with a statement of surrender: “Your will be done.” He knew the dark path was the path the Lord had laid before Him, and He still asked that another way be found. Such loveliness exists in these moments for my battered soul. Jesus asked to be spared, too. He yearned to be free from His path of suffering.
And yet He chose. And yet He loved.
We get so focused on His physical death in this season that we miss these little things, I think. At least I do. Christ’s suffering was not just physical. It was more painful, deeper, harder than physical pain alone. Unfulfilled longing to be spared accompanied Him to the cross. Knowledge of the fullness of His sacrifice, too.
And yet He chose.
Take a moment and marvel at the wonder of the night Jesus cried out to God to spare Him, will you? Soak in His surrender to the will of God. Dwell on His willingness to lay it all down to fulfill every purpose of God. Ponder the passion and compassion needed for a man both fully human and fully God to choose to become darkness so that you can have a relationship with His dad. Think on the power encapsulated within the very being of Christ and the restraint He showed in allowing the persecution and the pain of all generations to rest on His shoulders. Nails bound the flesh of the God-man to the cross, yes, but it was Christ’s willing and sacrificial love that held Him there until all was done. He knew the cost of the cross. He knew!
And yet He came.
“For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.” John 10:17-18
Then he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me.” And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” And he came to the disciples and found them sleeping. And he said to Peter, “So, could you not watch with me one hour? Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
Again, for the second time, he went away and prayed, “My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.” And again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy.
So, leaving them again, he went away and prayed for the third time, saying the same words again. Matthew 26:38-44