Friday, November 22, 2013

Creating My Own Gethsemane

Then Jesus went with them to a garden called Gethsemane and told his disciples, “Stay here while I go over there and pray.” Taking along Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he plunged into an agonizing sorrow. Then he said, “This sorrow is crushing my life out. 
Stay here and keep vigil with me.”
~ Matthew 26:36-38, MSG ~

A few weeks back I was doing some cleaning around my house and came across an old 3 ring binder I had with dated journal entries.  Right at the front of the binder was the collage above that I had created out of magazine photos nearly 23 years ago.  It was a sales training exercise where you created visual images of the goals for which you were aiming.  The smart leaders back then were training people that if you were shooting for nothing specific, that is exactly what you would achieve.

My priorities and dreams were so much different back then.  I didn't know and walk with Jesus the way I do today.  The lure of country club living was great.  I had recently ended a marriage to someone whose family was extremely affluent with "old money".  In the brief years of that union, I was exposed to many of life's finer things.  I built a career in the investment industry and worked with millions of dollars every day.  My heart was chasing after all the things to which I had been exposed.  

You might be interested to learn that I achieved and acquired everything in that collage.  While I never owned a convertible, I did buy my only brand new, beautiful, decked-out car.  I stayed at the Landmark and other fine resorts.  I purchased the expensive perfumes.  I went on the cruise honeymooning after my second marriage.  I still have the fur coat and the Spode Christmas Tree China that may get used twice per year, if at all.  And after several miscarriages, I was mightily blessed in my second marriage with 3 beautiful children.

Yet, all of those things became a Gethsemane that I had created for myself.  My misplaced goals and the great sin behind them became the weight that crushed me.  Craving after everything but the One who deserved my full attention proved to be nothing but folly or heartache.

Most of us recall the story of Jesus going to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray the night before his death.  Few of us, however, know that the word "Gethsemane" means "oil press".  Years ago, through the amazing teaching of Ray Vander Laan, I learned that this heavy stone, used for extruding olive oil in biblical times, could only be afforded by the wealthy or influential because of its great cost.  (See The Crushing Weight of the Gethsemane)  A high rental price was paid to be able to use that tool by those who grew olives.  A town's economy rose and fell on this process because olive oil had such essential and versatile use in that culture.

I had to be crushed and lose it all to gain it all.

Looking backwards, I see how the Gethsemane I had created in my own life cost me dearly.  My eyes and heart were chasing after so many temporal things.  I was always worried, hoping that reaching that one last goal would be the key to my happiness.  It never was.  And what happens when you lose it all?  There is a tremendous cost when your husband finds himself between jobs 6 times in 16 years like mine has.  It is a heavy burden indeed when you can barely afford a 4 day weekend vacation camping in a tent because all that is temporal has slipped through your fingers.  Getting away to relax for a brief sanity break becomes a distant memory.  Instead, you find yourself grateful for what little you have.

The maladies besetting the precious children I have born certainly weren't a part of the goal either.  Increasingly finding ourselves at specialists with each child for varying reasons over the past 16 years has often been a crushing weight.  I had my expectations of how I was going to raise my children, and that path surely has been redirected by road blocks such as hemophilia, anxiety, PTSD, severe ADHD, severe allergies, asthma, social deficits, sensory processing disorder, and an unknown autoimmune disease.  Even their spiritual struggles haven't been what I anticipated they would be.  They have all had to face too much, too soon in life.

The good news to this story, as I look back, is realizing that the day I welcomed Jesus into my life as the CEO, the intractable burden of my misguided desires and stubborn sin were lifted off my own shoulders.  He made me the winner of life's lottery simply by carrying the weight of those things for me.  I smile, shaking my head at the outdated pictures composing my collage of former goals.  How often I have wished I could sell the fur and the china to help pay off some bills, if only they were actually worth something.  I am so relieved and gladdened that my joy is in something far greater now, Someone with eternal hope.  It's hard to believe sometimes how far God has brought me in changing my perspective.  In this way, special needs and all of our other family challenges have transformed my Gethsemane into a gift.  

I am humbled.

When I read The Message translation of Matthew 26:36-38 and read Jesus' words, “This sorrow is crushing my life out," it can't help but humble me.  I mean really, is anything in that collage I made, with the exception perhaps of a child, worth dying for?  Yet, my personal drive, false "gods", and all of the sinful attitudes and behavior that came along with them are exactly what Jesus willingly took on.  He allowed the life to be crushed out of him by my wickedness, so that I could spend eternity with him in paradise.  Such a crazy love can't be captured by any goal-setting image pasting that I could ever create!  I am breathlessly humbled that He treasures me with such boundless grace and mercy.

Stumbling upon a memory like this, one that reminds me of my deliverance from my own, created Gethsemane, is a blessing I would like to encounter more often.  Sometimes, we need to reflect on the past, and how far God's brought us to fully appreciate the bright future He has guaranteed us in the days ahead. 

PRAY:  Awesome Savior, thanksgiving begins with humility.  Thank You for helping me come to the end of myself, no matter what it takes.  Continue to give me right priorities and a focus that remains squarely on You.  Thank you, Jesus, for suffering so much pain, so that I might live. 

~ Barb Dittrich

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