I look for someone to come and help me,
but no one gives me a passing thought!
No one will help me;
no one cares a bit what happens to me.--Psalm 142:4
My desire for you in these final days of Lent is that you would know and experience that you are not alone. I think loneliness is a powerful force in this world and I also believe that if Jesus' death and resurrection are real, that means real loneliness is a lie. Don't get me wrong, it's a very convincing lie. It's a lie that digs into your emotions so that no matter how much I tell you that you are not alone, if you feel alone, your experience will still reflect the desperation of Psalm 142:4. So let's follow the loneliness and see where it takes us and find that Jesus has already been there...and has been waiting for us.
It's Maundy Thursday. Jesus' hour has finally come. He is about to enter into the loneliest moment in history. In the upper room with his disciples, he prays that they would experience the unity and intimate fellowship that he has experienced from before the dawn of time. He prays for an extravagant closeness, a participation in and with the Divine in some mystical union that is beyond description.
And then a few hours later he will experience the antithesis: being forsaken by the Father. It’s a stark contrast that astounds me. The desire for intimacy and fellowship and communion is to be answered with abject forsakenness. It’s a great reversal. The one who enjoyed qualitatively eternal fellowship with the Divine was forsaken by the Divine so that we might enjoy a qualitatively eternal fellowship with the Divine. In other words, Jesus knows the despair of deep loneliness.
Your soul contains innumerable facets of loneliness…story after story of being let down by someone, betrayed, forsaken. Now add that up with every soul in the history of the world and you get an infinitely complex structure dense with the sorrow of being all alone. This is the loneliness that Jesus bore, the loneliness he knows so that we would only ever feel alone--never truly be alone.
Nirvana's unplugged performance is haunting. This concert is often thought of as Kurt Cobain's own funeral service, what with the plethora of songs on the theme of death, the décor of tulips and candles and of course the fact that he would succumb to his demons and die a few months later. For me, the performance reenacts the scene in the Garden of Gethsemane from Mark 14:35-42
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. Yet not my will, but yours be done.” Then he returned and found the disciples asleep. He said to Peter, “Simon, are you asleep? Couldn’t you watch with me even one hour? Keep watch and pray, so that you will not give in to temptation. For the spirit is willing, but the body is weak.”
Then Jesus left them again and prayed the same prayer as before. When he returned to them again, he found them sleeping, for they couldn’t keep their eyes open. And they didn’t know what to say. When he returned to them the third time, he said, “Go ahead and sleep. Have your rest. But no—the time has come. The Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Up, let’s be going. Look, my betrayer is here!”
It's Maundy Thursday. We are brought from the intimacy of the upper room--the foot-washing, the last supper, the high priestly prayer--to the loneliness of the garden, Jesus in the company of darkness while his disciples sleep.
He is surrounded by the stillness of his creation as it waits in great anticipation for the renewal of all things, a longing that goes back to the Garden of Eden; the flowers leaning in to hear the conversation that the disciples are sleeping through, the trees standing as guardians of this holy moment, the rocks crying out with their savior as they catch his blood, sweat and tears…while the disciples sleep! The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.
"What else can I be…what else can I say?...Yet, not my will but yours…"
As the soundtrack to the Gethsemane moment, this song culminates in the refrain that bounces back and forth between "All in all is all we all are" and "All alone is all we all are."--the longing for connection with the universe mingled with the intense feeling of isolation, a refrain that slowly fades into silence…as the soldiers invade the moment and the betrayer has come. The disciples flee. Jesus is all alone.
I confess, Jesus, I feel so alone too. Let me feel your presence. Amen.