I have done the work of explaining and giving words to the traditional aspects of this day in previous posts, so for today, I am going to draw near to my favorite, but less discussed aspect of the day. After the meal. After the bread and wine. After the foot washing. That is when my heart for Jesus connection comes alive.
I am wired to be connected. But deep connection with humans has always been a very tough reality for me. I want friendship. I want to know and be known. But these things require a level of vulnerability that I struggle to embody. I have done enough internal work to answer the ‘why’s’ of this, and yet it still does not make it any easier to apply. As much as I love the table, and I REALLY love the table, that communal act is not where my heart is drawn today. It’s the garden.
After Jesus and the disciples left the room, they went to the garden. This space is called the Mount of Olives and the Garden of Gethesmene. I have been to this place. I can honestly say that the experience of standing in that space, filled with ancient olive tress, as I looked over the old city of Jerusalem is one the most precious moments of my time in the Holy Land. That day was a quiet quest. It was an emotional connection to a moment that transformed my experience with this day.
There, deep into the night, Jesus went with those that were closest to him to experience his last moments of freedom. As a night owl, I get this need to simultaneously disconnect and reconnect in the darkness of night. I understand the need to take the few, the ones that I really trust to sit (or sleep) alongside me as I try to bring some clarity to the struggles of life and death. I don’t see a day (notice that I have given up saying ‘I won’t ever’ do something) when I would wash my friend’s feet after dinner. But, I can absolutely relate to the need to take a late night walk to one my favorite quiet spots. To go to a place where I can see the city, but be outside the chaos. To try to explain to my people what is going on in my soul and yet know that some cannot understand, some will go to sleep and some will deny me. All of these things happen in the garden. The garden is my jam. Not because I am a sick and twisted person (well, I guess I am) but I am also a person that needs honestly. And there is no more honest and desperate and authentic moment in all of scripture to me than the encounters that night in the garden. Those moments are as real as they get.
Tonight, there will be no communal meals. Churches are not meeting, large groups will not be breaking bread and pouring wine as communities. This is bizarre season. But, can I tell you what you will find if you go looking? The garden. The garden will be in your closet, bathroom, kitchen or backyard. For me, it is going to be a night of darkness (maybe a small fire if I can make it happen), the sound of the birds and lizards from my back porch. I am going to read the stories of that night. I’ll start around the table, but my heart will be in the garden. Specifically the prayer that Jesus vulnerably lifted from a place of questioning and pain. Those words are the heart of John’s gospel for me. That’s the Jesus that I can get behind. I will allow the darkness and the uncertainty to linger. I will meditate on the moment when they came to arrest him. There in the garden, in his sacred space, he was betrayed and taken into custody. This is the night that things changed.
It feels very strange to be on this journey from a place of solitude this year, but I really believe this is exactly what I needed. I have explored and questioned and allowed myself to feel this story in new ways because of the chaos of the world. I am sitting in the solitude that I’m not sure I have ever noticed before. In some divine way, I believe this is the exact Holy Week that my soul needed and didn’t know to ask for.
May you find a piece of today’s story that you have never encountered before and hold on tight.