Season 6 - Week 3
“Grief in all its fullness”
In January we took 36 young people on a youth alpha outward bound weekend to Dartmoor. Brrrrrrr – it was baltic. With abseiling, climbing, high ropes, plus the brand new alpha films, we had the perfect formula for a wonderful weekend.
Or so we thought.
Feeling a spontaneous God-nudge, a leader hastily filmed a quick group message to a beloved friend going through cancer treatment. To my dismay, most of the girls dissolved into tears straight after the message was filmed.
I panicked, desperately wanting to lift the mood and salvage the session. We mustn’t end the weekend on a downer.
But then I became aware that something incredible was unfolding.
As the tears freely fell, the spirit fell too. The young people began opening up to each other about their sadness and fears. Soon they were praying with each other and asking us to pray for them. They were encountering Jesus in an intimate way.
To us program-planners it was almost offensive! All the planning, timings, pacey activities, trumped by one random spontaneous moment of… sorrow?
The Holy Spirit had awakened them to their grief. And we, like the disciples in the garden, were invited to awaken to it too, and to dwell in that space with them. To not skip past it, negate it, gloss over it – but to step into it, to linger in that liminal unresolved space. Their vulnerability and raw honesty released the Holy Spirit’s power to heal, to comfort and to restore.
It reminded me of how I used to find this Garden of Gethsemane account describing Jesus’s emotional turmoil too uncomfortable to read. Impatient to get to the light, joy and hope of the empty garden tomb – I would ‘skip to the best bit’ and leave the dark discomfort and distress of Gethsemane behind. But last year I was given fresh eyes to see it’s breathtaking beauty and power. I lost my beloved Mum to cancer. As her body weakened, we watched a miracle unfold. Not physical healing, but a soul soaring in the midst of suffering.
Mum was comforted by Jesus’ raw expression of anguish; she was inspired by how He leant deeper into His father in prayer; and she was strengthened by how He humbly surrended to His father's will, to unleash new life for the world through his suffering. She experienced a hope and a joy that propelled her to reach out to others, to arrange a foodbank delivery for a hospice nurse, and plant bulbs in the hospice garden for others to enjoy this spring.
When was the last time we experienced this incredible, if unsettling, intimacy by choosing to dwell with Jesus in the discomfort of Gethsemane?
How, if we are being brutally honest with ourselves, do we respond to the daily reality that to experience ‘life in all its fullness’(John 10:10) we are invited to experience grief in all its fullness too?
Let’s not be tempted to skip over the garden of Gethsemane to get to the empty Garden Tomb.
It might just be where we are called to linger a while.
And the strength, peace and even joy we find there, might just surprise us.
What can you do this week to create space to intentionally dwell with Jesus in His Garden of Gethsemane pain? Are you willing to let Him dwell in your own Gethsemane pain, loss or grief?
Why not head out to a garden or green space, and find somewhere (dry) to lie and listen to ‘Weep with Me’ by Rend Collective and just dwell in that space for a time. Write down any words of comfort, joy, healing, refreshment that the spirit brings to you.
Jesus, we thank you that you weep with us, and you invite us to weep with you. You feel our pain and your invite us to feel yours. It’s amazing that you you are comfortable with our discomfort. Thank you that we can bring our fragmented selves to you and your presence brings healing and wholeness.