By Maggie Bartlett
“He took Peter, James, and John with him, and he became deeply troubled and distressed. He told them, “My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”
He went on a little farther and fell to the ground. He prayed that, if it were possible, the awful hour awaiting him might pass him by. “Abba, Father,” he cried out, “everything is possible for you. Please take this cup of suffering away from me.” – Mark 14:33-36
For me, this is one of the most compelling moments before Jesus’ crucifixion. It’s so honest—so human. How often do we turn on our heels hastily searching for the exit sign at the first hint of suffering in our lives?
How often do we ignore our pain, hoping it might simply fade away?
How often have we balked at our own story, starring addiction, fear, loneliness or newspaper headlines in the face and said, "No, thank you. This isn't what I want.”
It seems Jesus was no stranger to this sentiment.
Neither am I. I had a lightbulb moment a few months ago: I’m doing this too. I was evading my hurt, tiptoeing around land mines in my heart, careful not to disturb anything. The last several years were laden with deep sorrow and anguish. I haven’t fully recovered. I’m wind-blown, tattered and ragged—in desperate need of healing, in desperate need of Jesus.
I had an inkling through each heartbreak that there was only one place he was asking me to go—with him. Follow him into the wilderness of my grief to mourn and lament my losses. But that didn’t sound fun and it certainly didn’t sound easy. You know what was fun and easy? Laying on the couch in my favorite baggy sweatpants watching all 10 seasons of Friends on repeat. So, naturally, I did that instead.
Ross and Rachel didn’t remind me how sad I was. The hardest thing they faced was losing a monkey in their apartment building. That didn’t make me cry. But Jesus might make me cry. Out there in the wilderness, in the stillness. And if I started to weep, would I ever stop? Probably not. Alright, then yes Netflix, I am still watching. Next episode, please.
But, alas. I couldn’t hide for long. Eventually, I grew weary of the darkness. God found me (somewhere in the middle of the third go ‘round of season five) as I was praying alongside other women. We were silencing our hearts trying to make room to hear his whisper when I heard him: "Maggie, take this cup I've given you and drink from it."
I flinched because I knew exactly what he meant. Remember the garden? His prayers to be rescued? Well, it doesn’t end there. I left out the best part:
“Abba, Father,” he cried out, “everything is possible for you. Please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will, not mine.”
Startling. All in the same breath: resistance, submission; pleading, surrender. His humility stuns me. His obedience stuns me. Your will, not mine. I trust your path is good and perfect and I know mine is not. And I want that, Jesus says. Aren’t you glad he did?
It’s his obedience in this moment that recalibrates me—he trusted his Daddy and it didn’t fail him. And now, here was his cup in front of me, here was my story marbled with loss. I refused to take it, dismissing him and the fragile, tender places of my heart. I was doing everything I could to numb myself, but my grief was piling up. I wasn’t well. But I wouldn’t get well if I didn’t listen to his beckoning and urging to join him in the throne room, to trust him in the wild, to mourn with him in the desert. His will, not mine.