Should I finish the book, the Final Cut Pro tutorial, edit a video or read the bible? I snapped a couple of people on snapchat and scrolled under ‘Following’ on Instagram, admiring beautiful doe-eye models. Why am I staring at this picture of a really big, toned butt? I forced myself to look away and opened a tab featuring an article on suicide bombings in Lebanon. That should make up for how vapid I feel.
I gravitated towards the bible. If there’s anything I must do today, this is it. I lifted it off the piano and found a spot on the living room floor. St. Teresa stressed that by keeping in our minds Jesus’ sufferings, we fare all the better in knowing and loving our God in this life. I thus chose a passage from Mark to focus on Jesus, in the garden of Gethsemane.
Before I began reading, I looked through my Worship playlist- just to set the mood, prepare my heart and all that. But I found no comfort in the song I chose; I could not shake an unsettling feeling. I was afraid to close my eyes. I was afraid of the dark, of being alone in the living room, of the dreams I’ve been having recently. Nightmares. Devils. Why am I so afraid, Lord? Why am I more afraid of Satan than I am of You? And I chose this special song: Loud Harp- The Fire and The Flood. This time when you come, don’t hide Your face. This time when you come, don’t keep silent. Oh bring the fire, burn what isn’t You. Open the flood, overwhelm us… And as I began to pray these words in my heart, singing silently to the Lord in desperation, the tears started falling. The floodgates had opened. Take everything that does not belong to You, take everything that is wrong, every sin, every fear away from me. And as I cried with my head strained towards the heaven that was my ceiling, I noticed a single tear trail down my cheek, my neck, my throat. I was made aware of how much my throat ached. I could not fully enjoy God because of it- because I had too much to drink the night before. I knew then that You did not approve- that it pained You too. Thank You for this resolution I would never have willingly come to myself: if alcohol makes it difficult to live worshipfully, goodbye alcohol.
As the next song came on, I reached for my earphones but found myself unable to pull them away. So unwilling. I was being lulled into enjoyment. Into Your arms, the singer cooed. I am giving away the joy of drunkenness and replacing it with the greatest joy- the joy of Your love and friendship. Of being close to You. And suddenly I heard the door open as my mother shuffled to the other room. I ducked my head, wiped my cheeks. She could not see me like this. I waited for her to pass: more listening, less crying. You found me and you pulled me out. You found me and you brought me home… You are a good Father, this is a good home. How is it that You are allowing me such heights of happiness although I have sinned? And I felt such humility, Lord, that only You can evoke. Is this how You punish Your people? By lavishing us with your love? By giving us gifts? And I understood that this is what St. Teresa meant by:
Indeed, at the very times when I most offended You, You quickly prepared me by a very great repentance, to taste Your gifts and graces. Truly, my King, You used the most refined and painful punishment that I could possibly have borne, since You well knew what would give me the greatest pain. You chastised my sins with great favours… But to find myself receiving fresh graces when I had shown so little gratitude for those already received, is a kind of torture that is terrible to me, and to everyone, I believe, who has any knowledge or love of God. (p.58)
Such exquisite remorse, such heartbreak for having sinned against so good and loving a God. And yet how joyous I felt to experience this pain, for it is a marker of my love for You- and I know that You are pleased! With my head bowed to the ground I felt with my entire being my lowliness, my unworthiness, my overwhelming gratitude. Such a sweet place to be. Thank you, thank you.
Then, I was ready to encounter Your word. As soon as I read the words of Jesus: “My soul is swallowed up in sorrow- to the point of death” (Mk 14:34), I bawled. I couldn’t breathe. My face felt like it was going to burst, my intestines about to fly, about to shatter like glass in a microwave a second too long. I felt the depth of Your suffering, Jesus, so moved by Your love for us. You died for those who hated you, accused You and lauded it over You when truly You were and are king of the universe, blameless like no other. Although You despised their sin, You loved them at the greatest harm to Yourself: abandoned by Your friends and at the moment of death- Your own father. I could do nothing but weep.
Jesus repeatedly commanded his disciples to “stay awake and pray so that you won’t enter into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Mk 14:38). I thought about wakefulness, vigilance, sober-mindedness. The act of prayer and the state of wakefulness– the two together, are safeguards against sin and succumbing to the weakness of the flesh. The disciples, being humans fundamentally weak, could not stay awake. They fell asleep when they were supposed to guard their beloved Jesus. You had just one job, guys! Alas, humans fall short, and in consequence, Jesus was “betrayed into the hands of sinners” ( Mk 14:41). Not only by Judas but by those who claimed to love Him. Thus we must always be alert, not trusting ourselves, lest we squander our spirits and betray our God.
It is comforting to know that even Jesus, whose spirit was willing, could not escape the dread of what was to come. He understands our sufferings, the struggles of being human. He prayed and begged on his knees for deliverance: “All things are possible for You. Take this cup away from Me” (Mk 14:36). Yet, he consented to the ultimate will: “Nevertheless, not that I will but what You will” (MK 14:36). And it is this same spirit that is willing, that wants to please God in me. Every good intention, thought, and deed comes from God. I could not find an inkling of love inside me if it weren’t for You granting me this tenderness. I thank You. These tears are not my own. So, in order to nourish and sustain my spirit, I need to keep praying. If I love Jesus, I must remember Him and how He suffered for me. My spirit never wants to forget but my humanity will. I must not abandon the Lord and fall asleep. I must feed my spirit constantly- more necessary than food, more of a staple than brushing my teeth, to keep my conscience clean.
Like newborn infants, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, since you have tasted that the Lord is good. Peter 2:2-3
I know now it is no loss, Lord, to give up any of the pleasures of this world for You. I can never give more than what You have given, have promised to give, and are giving me every day. I know now that learning to pray and learning about You this summer is more valuable than any number of skills and talents. May I never tire of prayer or believe it done in vain. If I seek You, I will most assuredly find You.