He was deeply grieved, He got angry, and He prayed to get out of doing the task we all know Him for. Most wouldn’t speak of Jesus’ moment in the Garden of Gethsemane in those terms. Most would focus on the fact that He regained the will to perform the task of being crucified, so that God’s purpose could be fulfilled. I’ve heard it my entire life from pulpits not only on Easter Sunday, but any time, any preacher wanted to encourage people to cede their will to God’s.
That story has its place and it has been told countless times. I have my own thoughts on the resurrection, but I don’t want to focus on Jesus ceding to God’s Will. In fact, I believe that God’s Will and Jesus’ Will were the same. I think the garden moment that we so often reference is one in which we can see Jesus at his most human and yet, embodying his Divine Self completely and fully.
He was only able to step into this illumined Self through the process of the humanness He displayed in the garden. I’m not sure He could have made it any other way. And this is the thing that we should all be grateful for, that when we seek God’s Will for our life, it may get a little messy and that’s okay. It doesn’t mean that we have done anything wrong. It doesn’t mean that we are not on the path. In fact, it generally means that we are on it and we are getting closer to where we ultimately need to be.
There is a term that has been used a lot in mystical, spiritual and New Age circles called the “dark night of the soul.” So, imagine my surprise when I discovered this term originated from a poem by Christian saint, St. John of the Cross. Interestingly, too, the poem never referred to a dark night of the soul, only a dark night. The darkness represented the unknowing that was the path to divine union with God. It involves a time of purification before going through illumination and then, experiencing fully oneness with the Divine.
So, for me, I have begun to see Jesus’ garden moment as His dark night of the soul. It was part of His purification process. If you’re my Dad, I can hear you saying that the only “perfect person in the world was Jesus,” so why would He need to be purified? Why indeed? He had already gone through a purification process of sorts when out in the wilderness and He’d risen to the challenge.
The simplest reason is because when we are about to uplevel as Jesus was through His death and resurrection to truly become the ihidaya or undivided one, we have to release our old beliefs about who we are to step into and accept the new beliefs about who we are to become. We have to be emptied of those things that would keep us tethered to our current position.
Oftentimes, these are our shadow beliefs. They often include the belief that we are not worthy, the belief that we are not enough, the belief that we cannot do this task or job, and/or the belief that whatever we are hoping to accomplish is impossible. And these beliefs arise because we are wondering around in the dark. We know what we’ve been promised in our soul, but we can’t see how the heck we are going to get there.
And this is what I believe Jesus was experiencing. This is Him at His most human. Even more than weeping for his friend, Lazarus, this moment in the Garden of Gethsemane where He is deeply grieved, admonishes his students from not staying up with Him and asks for “this cup” to “pass from me,” is the moment where Jesus displays the characteristics of most humans when they feel like they are not in control.
What we must realize is that this is all part of the process. We must shake loose the self-doubt and unworthiness we feel if we are to be embody our Divine Self. We are being given it to experience it so that we can release it, and that’s what Jesus was doing in the garden. He was being met by His shadow beliefs, which caused Him to feel deeply grieved, lash out at his students and ask if there was any other way the task could be fulfilled.
He was probably asking Himself if He was truly the right one for this job while those who supposedly believed He was were sleeping instead of encouraging Him. But that’s what life is like. We don’t always have cheerleaders around us helping us to move forward through our shadow beliefs. And that’s where the prayer came in.
The prayer was His cheerleader. It helped Him to meet His shadow beliefs and overcome them, so that He could move forward. He reminded Himself of who He truly was in saying “not my will but thy will be done.” For me, it wasn’t about him giving up his Will to do God’s Will. It was Him fully accepting who He was becoming.
This prayer became His mantra. In Matthew, he repeated it multiple times, and I imagine that every time the verses state that He prayed, this was the prayer He was praying. We, too, can use a mantra to cut through the shadow beliefs.
I’m not talking affirmations that counter the belief like “I am worthy,” because if you don’t feel worthy, no amount of repetitions of that phrase will make you feel so. I’m talking about mantras that are going to cut through the subconscious BS and help you to be able to see yourself differently as Jesus did at the end of his garden moment. I utilize one that cycles through various names of God. Jesus invoked God’s Will itself. Both Jesus and I have used verses from scripture as mantras to help us through. You can choose the mantra that will work for you.
The keys for me in this garden moment are: first, it may get messy before we can fully accept the task we’ve been given; second, we must utilize the tools we have at our disposal to allow the part of us that is Divine to step in and help us to see what we in our humanness cannot see ourselves; and finally, there is absolutely nothing wrong with us being human and experiencing human emotions. It’s kind of the point of us being here.
Image credit: JESUS MAFA. Christ on Gethsemane, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. http://diglib.library.vanderbilt.edu/act-imagelink.pl?RC=48391 [retrieved March 4, 2017].