Last night, there was a discussion among my friends on the scene from the Garden of Gethsemane (which, by the way, my parents just returned from — how awesome is that?). In this part of the Gospel story, Jesus and his disciples have just finished the Last Supper and go to this garden to pray. Well, Jesus goes to pray. He tells the disciples to stay where they are and pray also while he goes on a bit further to be alone and seek God.
Jesus goes about a stone’s throw ahead of them, kneels down, and earnestly speaks to God. I won’t be able to express this adequately, but note that he’s about to be captured, brutally tortured, and hung to die a humiliating and public death, all the while innocent. And he fully knows this is going to happen. And that most of the world will never appreciate the truth behind his death. So, unsurprisingly, he’s in anguish (understatement).
When Jesus returns to the disciples, they’re sleeping. Having gone to many a prayer session at my New York City church, I can attest that this is not an uncommon incident among believers. Jesus then asks them again to stay alert and to pray in order to avoid temptation. He leaves once again, and when he returns, they’re sleeping…again. I’m unsure as to how many times this happens — maybe just twice, perhaps three times. But basically, Jesus is about to die for the salvation of these fools, and they’re snoozing away. (The analogy to our own lives here is not lost on me, don’t worry.)
So one question that arose when discussing this was, what temptation are they supposed to be avoiding? I have several thoughts on this, but we came to an understanding that it was the temptation to sleep — which I felt had a deeper layer to it. After all, sleep is a good thing that God blessed us with (rest, Sabbath day, etc.).
Maybe the disciples had food coma, or maybe it was just really late. But in Luke, it notes that the disciples slept because they were exhausted from sorrow. Initially, I had glazed over that phrase while reading, but someone last night pointed it out specifically. He said that when we feel turmoil or sorrow, we tend to prefer to sleep it away — at least for some of us. The temptation to escape sorrow through sleeping. Or, as this person said, the temptation of choosing numbness as our solution.
It occurred to me then that this was exactly how I operate. I thought about the darker days in my life — those days when I have what I call episodes — and my automatic thought is to lay in bed and never get up again. To sleep or lay in numbness.
It also occurred to me though that in those moments, if and when I choose to even briefly think about God, I can’t just lay there. It is impossible for me to desire numbness while thinking about Jesus. It is even more impossible to remain in numbness or sorrowful sleep when I am actively engaging with Him — as in prayer or worship.
I’m not sure where I am going with this, but I felt the need to record this down. That I am tempted to avoid pain and sorrow by choosing numbness, but that the cure for this numbness and desire for escape is really Jesus.
Obviously, if one doesn’t truly know Jesus then one would not find thinking of him to be very helpful in these moments. But for me, the truth of salvation is very much present in my life, and this mini epiphany about numbing sleep was a great reminder for me of this hope and joy that I have in knowing Him, who brings me every day out of my own darkness.
That is all.