Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Meet me at the Olive Garden

It was chilly.  I was under dressed and under prepared.  It had rained all morning long; sometimes like cats and dogs and at other times an annoying drizzle.  I had been in Jerusalem a day or two.  I can't even remember now because some things seem to have blurred together.  One soggy, chilly day blending into another.  We started at the top of a hill in the Kidron Valley and as we carefully managed our way down the hill, trying so hard not to slip on the wet pavement, we stopped outside of a walled area.  I waited, once again, for the rest of the group to go to the bathroom.  I had worn a maxi-dress which skimmed the ground.  By the time we reached this next sight, my dress had soaked up rain puddles and the wetness reached mid-calf.  I was beginning to get cranky.

We entered in to find a grove of trees and another church built to signify the "traditional spot" of the garden of Gethsemane.  X marks the spot.  We waited as our group gathered and tourists from Nigeria and Korea crowded through the doors of this church.  As we waited for our turn to step inside and tour the church, we stood next to an Olive Garden.  No bread sticks were served but we did marvel some 2,000 year old Olive trees.  They were goofy looking yet magnificent.  I, however, was focused on standing somewhere dry for a few moments. 

We took our turn in the church.  It looked like the other churches that had been built to mark *the spot* throughout Israel.  Our guide then pulled us aside and told us we would be entering into a private garden in a few moments.  We wouldn't have long, perhaps 45 minutes total.  The guard opened the gate and we walked in.  It was quiet.  Peaceful. Wet. Cold. We huddled together as our guide read to us from the Bible:

"When he had finished praying, Jesus left with his disciples and crossed the Kidron Valley.  On the other side there was a olive grove, and he and his disciples went into it.  Now Judas, who betrayed him, knew the place, because Jesus had often met there with his disciples.  So Judas came to the grove, guiding the detachment of soldiers and some officials from the chief priests and Pharisees.  They were carrying torches, lanterns and weapons.  Jesus, knowing all that was going to happen to him, went out and asked them, 'Who is it you want?'
'Jesus of Nazareth,' they replied. 
'I am he,' Jesus said.  (And Judas the traitor was standing there with them.)  When Jesus said, 'I am he,' they drew back and fell to the ground...  (John 18:1-6)

In, quite possibly, this VERY spot, Jesus allowed himself to be arrested and taken to what he knew would be a gruesome death.  A necessary death for the redemption of those He loved... mankind. Wow. 

We had some time to be *alone* (which is a tremendous task when you are in a closed garden with 50 other people.)  The rain was only a slight drizzle.  But oddly enough, I barely noticed.  I sat on a wall, overlooking the olive grove.  I turned on my music (Blessed Assurance, I Come to the Garden and I Am by Phil Wing were all I had time for.) 

I sat and reflected on the events that occurred to the Creator of the Universe, right there in that very garden.  The fact that He willingly give himself over to be killed on my behalf was overwhelming.  It sounds so cliché.  So over-simplistic and utterly predictable, but I gained a supernatural understanding of God's goodness in that garden at that very moment.

I've struggled over the past 4 years to connect my intellectual understanding of God's goodness and the experience of my complete trust in His goodness, no matter what my circumstance, to my heart.  I've had some crappy circumstances and I have struggled to believe with my heart.

It was as if God took me half way around the world, sat me on a wall in a rainy garden to wash me in His goodness.  What a way to learn how to not allow outside circumstance (rain, wind, puddles, soggy dress, cancer, death, whatever) to keep me from missing the goodness of God.

Self-sacrifice... goodness doesn't get any better than that.

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