Jesus in the garden struggling to come to terms with events. He asks for support from friends but they fall asleep. He asks to be spared the awaiting fate, but then says (something like) ‘I have to face the future full on.’ He struggles.
Life is a struggle, and for most people on the planet it’s more of a struggle than it is for us. We look around and see the beauty and fragility of creation; mountains, plains, plants, flowers, architecture, art, science, craftsmanship. We see how it is constantly beset by terrible acts of evil. Over the last few decades there have to appalling events in Russia, Africa, the Balkans where hundreds of innocents are slaughtered in the name of political struggle: one group of people trying to control others. We see inhumanity in places like North Korea and Burma. We see it even in our own land. We see war waged in Iraq and Afghanistan, and threatened in Iran. At times it almost seems as if the very stars are being wrenched from heaven by some evil force—which is exactly how the events of Friday are described in the Gospels as the sky is plunged into darkness.
This urge to the inhuman must be in us somewhere. Evil, badness, cruelty – these begin as a thought in someone’s mind, one nerve cell in the brain sparking on another. When we decide to support the things that evil people do—bullying, torture, exploitation—that decision begins as a thought in someone’s mind—yours and mine. When we are tormented by what to do, when beads of sweat start forming on our foreheads and drop like grapes to the floor, we are experiencing something of the mental agony that we hear of in the Garden of Gethsemane. All this because we have the power to choose: wisely or unwisely; actions that might fracture or might heal; actions that might increase the amount of misery in the world, or that attempt to decrease it.
The story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden is a fairy story that attempts to explain why we humans so often get it wrong. A story that illustrates that when we choose for selfish reasons rather than for selfless reasons, we disturb the cosmos. A story that explains why we so often hide behind masks, spiritual cosmetics, spiritual fig leaves, rather than stand in full frontal nakedness before the Divine.
We have choice. Every choice begins as a thought. We need to be aware of our thoughts. We need to choose wisely. We need to have courage to stand against the mistaken majority and stand for truth and right. We need to have courage to be nonconformist as Jesus was nonconformist, and stand up to those who try to persuade us to do what we know we should not. We may be laughed at, scorned, cast out, sneered at. We may suffer. But from this suffering we grow in self-knowledge, and growing in self-knowledge, with all the shame and joy that such growth brings, is the first step towards growing into the Divine. God became man so that humans might approach the Divine.
C S Lewis: God whispers to us in our pleasure, speaks to us in our conscience and shouts to us in our pains.