Thursday, April 1, 2010

On Being Common

Luke 22:40-46

On reaching the place, he said to them, "Pray that you will not fall into temptation." He withdrew about a stone's throw away beyond them, knelt down and prayed, "Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done." An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.

When he rose from prayer and went back to the disciples, he found them asleep, exhausted from sorrow. "Why are you sleeping?" he asked them. "Get up and pray so that you will not fall into temptation."


I have a confession to make.

I want to be special. I want to be unique. I want to be one of a kind.

It seems somehow ironic to the point of absurdity to look at those statements and realize how common these desires are to pretty much everyone I know.

Tonight, attending a Christian Seder meal and hearing the words of Jesus, recorded in Luke, I realized how incredibly common I am. It seems people have not changed much in the last 2000 years.

I have been exhausted lately. In some ways this is great. As an occasional insomniac, it's truly fantastic to sleep a solid six or eight hours without waking. The downside is that I've been sleeping so hard I often awake with a horrible headache. Naps are perhaps one of the greatest inventions of all time, and I'm fortunate that I have the freedom to take them, but if I'm not careful, a two hour nap can kill my productivity for the remainder of the day.

While grief is exhausting, perhaps the worst part of grief is the temptation. I have a history of making incredibly poor decisions when I'm grieving. I came to this realization recently, as I thought over my previous loss, and how my response to this one has been so radically different. I mentioned to my accountability partner this "history of really bad decisions" when grieving (which she well remembers), and she responded by assuring me that this is pretty normal. I didn't believe her.

And there it was tonight. Jesus finds the disciples asleep, exhausted from grief, and commands them to pray so that they do not fall into temptation. When Jesus finds the disciples sleeping, he does not tell them, "Pray that you don't fall into temptation." He tells them, "Pray so that you don't fall into temptation." Reading this, I get the sense that it does not matter all that much what they pray about, so long as they're praying.

Prayer is a conversation with God. Nothing more, nothing less. It can be intimate or casual, public or private. I think God doesn't care all that much when or how or where we do it, as long as we do it. I've been doing a lot of it lately. I have not fallen into temptation.

After the service this evening, I stayed in the pew for a bit, praying. I thanked God for the work that He has done in my life, for the difference I see in myself now as compared to two and half years ago. And I was overwhelmed by God's goodness and His faithfulness to me. I began to weep tears of gratitude. God has been so incredibly good to me. I have a blessed life and so much more than I could ever deserve. I am honored to be His kid.

As I sat there, thanking God for His goodness and mercy, His love and grace, the abundant joy He has put in my life, and the overflowing blessings that surprise, delight, and astound me every day, I recalled an image I received a few days after Willy Wonka died. I had been praying, knowing that Jesus was there when it happened, knowing He is with me always. As I prayed, I saw myself scooping up Willy Wonka in my arms and cradling him. Then, I saw Jesus scoop me up into his arms and cradle me, and heard him whisper in my ear, "When Willy Wonka fell and you rushed in to catch him, I was rushing in to catch you."

God has been so good to me. And so I began to pray that God would be as good to others. I prayed blessings for my family and friends. I prayed sustaining grace and abiding peace. I prayed knowledge of who God is, and who they are in Him. I prayed they would know that Jesus also rushes in to catch them. I prayed that they would remember to pray so that they do not fall into temptation. (It may read like I prayed for hours, but I'm certain it could not have been more than a few minutes). Then the church came around me and prayed for me. I felt loved. I felt well cared for. I felt the presence of Jesus in the room, and I was blessed.

Going into Good Friday, I have an acute sense of the hopelessness and despair of loss. I take comfort, though, in the sure knowledge that Jesus is with me always, even when I cannot see where he is. I have joy, knowing that he is faithful and true and will never leave me nor forsake me.

I pray every day. Despite being tired, I pray so that I will not fall into temptation.

And if I slip, if I misstep, if I fall into temptation...? Well, I know it will be okay. Jesus understands. He understood it 2000 years ago when he charged his closest friends to "Pray so that you do not fall into temptation," knowing that they would.

But Jesus knew something else, and I know it too--he came to we might have life, and that we might have it abundantly. Jesus knew that come Easter morning there would be nothing that could separate us from the love of God.

Tonight, I realized that I am utterly common. Being tempted in a time of grief is nothing new. Jesus spoke of it 2000 years ago. This thought brings me comfort. It means he knows, and he understands. It means that I am not alone. It means I'm pretty much like everyone else. It means if he has forgiven his closest friends, he will surely forgive me. It means if others have stood up under temptation, I can too.

Tonight, I realized that I am common. Right now, that feels like a pretty good thing.

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