“The problem with a living sacrifice is that it keeps jumping off the altar.”
“Gethsemane” (Hebrew, gat shemanim)—oil press, place of crushing
Someone ran my wife off the road today. She’s okay, but there was eighty-some dollars worth of damage to the front passenger tire which had been replaced only days ago. That’s all well and good, in the grand scheme, especially since my dear one is safe. What stewed my tomatoes was when she told me that the lady (really, I ask, should women ever have the wheel?) who ran her off the road laid on the horn to let her know for future reference and under no circumstance should Sandy ever be in front of her when she wants to change lanes. The mercury rose in my neck as I pictured my beloved being rammed into the sharp corner of some highway curbing by someone who evidently staked some kind of claim to said road.
I have to admit what my head was screaming when I got the full story. Lord, let the woman get stopped for moving violations five times between here and her home. May she just try to mouth off to one of those officers and spend a night sitting in a rank jail cell sandwiched between a throw-up drunk and a crazy person who claims to be Jesus and the easter bunny.
May her best friend betray her, Lord, and her favorite pet run away. May her mortgage company foreclose on her loan and may all four of her tires fall off her car for no apparent reason in the middle of a rainy night far from cellular service and may a sweaty, toothless guy named Tiny pull over to help her…
You see how depraved my mind can get when given ten seconds for unsupervised playtime?
And last night, at our weekly prayer fellowship, one of the guys praying was really digging in and said, “Lord, I thank You that in Your economy we don’t need to wait upon a Joshua for direction but we have all been made priests and Your instruction can come for this church from anyone…” My heart was amen-ing the context and truth of his prayer but immediately the specter of old Adam rose up in me and I found myself in a soulish struggle. Well, that’s true and all, but why can’t I be the ‘go-to’ guy? I like going to the tip of Sinai and bringing the people their instruction…oh, why do I still do it? Why must I repeatedly make sure I come out ahead? Why must I keep clawing through the sod so a dead man can get some air when what I really want is to be laid to rest in the death of Jesus? Why must I insist that the plan be mine, the credit be mine, that the roadmap be in my hand, the itinerary be according to my schedule, that the crowd come to me and not to so-and-so; why must I hurt so when I am rejected or passed over?
That’s me sleeping in Gethsemane when Another has sweat out blood. I’m content to loiter in this garden when I should be pressing in. I can barely keep my eyes open when all around me so much hangs in the balance, when there is so much at stake. What with my track record these past 24 hours, it seems I’d rather stretch out on a garden bench near the fountain, if possible, so the sound of gurgling water might lull me to sleep, not to mention cover the moans and sobs and bitter wails of the One who goes for me. I cannot die His death but I must die my own. There is a cup for me.
Trouble is, the process of such a death is so hard. Death, I’m okay with. Near-death, I can do. Dying, not so enamored with. It’s telling that the process of harvesting oil from olives is three-fold: crushing, pressing and separating. First the olive is crushed into a paste, then pressed to release its liquid form and finally, the pure oil is separated from the waste. During any of these steps I may cry out and recuse myself from the millstone. It gets too hard.
Hard enough that at the first signs of blood oozing from my sweat glands, I run to take a shower. If the battle within gets too hairy, I succumb to narcolepsy. To the tune of hobnailed Roman shoes marching my way, I am prone to tuck and run.
It pains me to say I prefer my death to be near-death, with someone who knows CPR standing close by. However, I must hasten to add that those same disciples who slept in the Garden, as I am want to do, also changed the world. They got sick and tired of being revived only to live after the flesh and the day came when each saw it through to its messy, glorious end. Crushed, pressed and separated. With self-will crushed and soulishness squeezed out, the result was the fragrance and flavor of Christ. One hundred percent pure E.V.O.O.
I’m just fool enough to believe the same might be (one day) said of me.
PRAYER: Lord, you have brought me to this garden, not to watch You die, of course, but that I might. You know my heart cries, finish the work! You know that my desire is for complete death and complete union with You. And, like Abraham, I know my Isaacs—Your Isaacs—will rejoin me on the journey and it will be old Abraham that will stay dead on that mountain. I call upon all available grace to see this through to the end, knowing You are with me, not asleep in the far off. I love You and long for the day when it is a reality that it is “no longer I”. In Jesus’ Name, amen.