Bonnie Gray is the soulful author of Whispers of Rest and Finding Spiritual Whitespace. An inspirational speaker and retreat leader, she has touched thousands of lives through storytelling, visual arts, nature, prayer and meditation. Bonnie’s writing is featured on Relevant Magazine, DaySpring (in)courage, and Christianity Today. She lives in California with her husband and their two sons. Visit Bonnie at www.thebonniegray.com and connect with her @thebonniegray on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube.
"My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death.
'Stay here...with me.'"
Jesus in Matthew 26:38
During my season through anxiety, I was very sensitive to loud music . But since my breakthrough in therapy a couple years ago, I got an idea. I had always wanted to go to a Gungor concert and they were in San Francisco one week. So I texted our babysitter and found myself standing next to my husband Eric on one side and some twenty-something girls on the other. We had an hour left to kill.
I found out both girls were seminary students. "So, what're you studying…? What's next?"
You might think people who look happy and perfect wouldn't have hard stories to share. But, they do. The blond-haired girl with blue eyes tells me, half-yelling across the drone of concert goers, "I'm not really sure what God wants me to do. I've told Him I'll do whatever He wants me to do."
She pauses. "But, I feel like I've been wandering."
Not So Different
Blue-eyed Girl tells me she's been hurt. She's run into dead ends when she thought God had been opening doors.
All of a sudden, it seemed to me there was no one else in the room. Except me and her unspoken story.
The old me, pre-PTSD me, would've given her some cheerful advice. Safe words. But, now I see everything differently.
When the world we live in doesn't match the dreams we thought God put on our hearts -- don't we all feel a little lost?
When we step out and try to be ourselves -- and offer something authentic and real -- and find out someone doesn't think it's good enough -- don't we all wonder who would stay?
And when we have to face something hard -- but we don't know how long the journey will take -- and we want to give up -- but we can't go back either-- don't we wonder why God is silent?
We ask, "Is there any other way?"
Any Other Way
These are the same words Jesus found himself whispering in a garden one night in Gethsemane into thick silence. While wave upon wave of questions poured out of Him. And the dilemma of turning left or right was both as painful as it was unwanted. There was no way out.
Is there any other way? Jesus asked.
Jesus could have chosen to pray by himself and hide this inner struggle.
Jesus had often prayed alone. And yet, on the worst night of his life, Jesus tells us he needed someone to hold onto the hard moment.
Jesus needed someone to stay.
Stay With Me
Jesus didn't have a timetable, to know how long the journey of the cross would take. How long the beatings would last. How long he'd have to drag the cross inch by inch, with lashes bleeding cut deep in his back. He didn't know how he would feel yanked around in chains, from one place to another, in sleep deprivation.
Jesus had never, ever experienced the feel of spit on his face while He shivered in the cold alone. The overwhelming anxiety of the unknown, but the certain pain and fear of what was to come brought Jesus to his knees. Right where you and I sometimes have to go, when we don't know what to do.
Overwhelmed, anxiety ridden, Jesus turned to those closest to him. Jesus became vulnerable and let his disciples see him, as desperation filled the pit of his stomach.
Jesus confided in them. Jesus stumbled right up to the edge of Himself.
Then he said to [Peter, James and John],
"My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. 'Stay here...with me."
Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, "My Father, if there is any way, get me out of this." Matthew 26:31-39
Jesus asked someone to stay with Him that night. Jesus needed someone to stay.
In the Middle
The Scriptures tell us that Jesus was so overwhelmed with anguish that his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground. Could Jesus have been experiencing panic attacks? If you've ever had one, you might never see that night in Gethsemane the same way ever again.
This was how Jesus spent His final moments of solitude. The calm before the storm. Stay here… with me. He asked.
Jesus is intimately familiar with the pain of a journey unresolved -- right in the middle of it.
Yet, unlike me, Jesus did not yield to temptation. Jesus, instead, yielded to the journey.
Completely. For You. And Me.
We don't have to be alone anymore -- even when we fail to yield. Especially in the moments when we want to, but we don't know how. Jesus suffered for us. So He can stay.
Jesus suffers with us, in the middle of it all. With you and me.
In our wandering, we are never truly lost.
Having Someone to hold on to. Changes everything. Having Someone love you in the waiting -- in the suffering. Changes you. Love heals.
The Best Gift
I looked into Blue-eyed Girl and said, "You know, I think we're all wanderers in this life. We're all on a journey. Maybe wandering is living out faith. Maybe the best gift we can offer to others wandering in this world without hope is to walk as a wanderer with them -- except with hope. Maybe being willing to wander with Jesus is one of the sweetest gift we surrender with him." Blue-Eyed Girl gave me a big hug. "Thank you," she smiled, as she squeezed my hand.
Our #OneWordLent Prayer Today
Today, you and I may not know where our journey of faith leads, but, Jesus whispers --
I've wandered willingly into darkness one night long ago,
So you don't have to walk alone anymore.
Let me hold onto you. Let me stay.
I call you beautiful. I call you mine. Today.
Rather than trying to avoid the journey ahead, however hard, let Jesus hold you and let His love give you courage to walk the journey ahead.
Is there someone you can confide in? Begin with Jesus. Then, confide in a one or two friends. Just like Jesus did.
How can Jesus comfort you on your journey this week?
What one word speaks to you in today's scripture? Pull up a chair. And share a comment.
* Who can you share today's encouragement with?
For more encouragement, get a copy of Finding Spiritual Whitespace: Awakening Your Soul to Rest.
Bonnie Gray blogs at Faith Barista, serving up shots of faith in the daily grind. She has been named Top 6 Notable New Religion Authors by Publisher's Weekly and writes for DaySpring (in)courage, Revelant Magazine, spotlighted by Christianity Today and Catalyst Leadership. A UCLA graduate, Bonnie served as a missionary, ministry entrepreneur, and Silicon Valley high-tech professional. She lives in California with her husband, Eric, and their two sons.
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