I Came to the Garden…

     One of the bonuses of our recent Israeli tour was a 50-minute block of time our group exclusively was able to spend in the Garden of Gethsemane. Following Dan’s brief teaching, we were encouraged to find a spot to spend alone with God.

     The Garden of Gethsemane is where the rabbi, Jesus, went with his disciples following their last supper. It was in the Garden Jesus agonized. It was in the Garden Jesus’ weary disciples couldn’t stay awake to pray for their master teacher and friend whom they suspected was the long-awaited Messiah. It was in the Garden Judas planted a kiss of betrayal on Jesus’ cheek. It was in the Garden Roman soldiers arrested an absolutely innocent man.

     So, how do I, such a fallible, too-often-sleepy-headed follower of Jesus pray in this monumental place?

     Honestly, I had no clue!

     I began by thanking Jesus for his willingness to do for broken humanity, such as me, all he so willingly did.

     But, in the Garden, my thanks seemed puny.

     Next, I asked Jesus for power during uncertain, scary, difficult times in my life to pray as he did in the Garden.

He went a little farther and fell on His face, and prayed, saying, “O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.” Matthew 26:39 (NKJV)

     I thought about a song I’ve often tried to sing with some degree of conviction, “I Surrender All,” knowing full well I can’t sing those words truthfully. For many years I’ve added mentally to the lyrics, “I WANT to WANT to surrender ALL!”

     But, in the Garden, my surrender seemed impossible.

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     Then, while sitting alone on a bench in the Garden of Gethsemane, I felt the sweetness of that inaudible but yet unmistakable Divine voice speak into my spirit, “It’s okay. Just be still. You don’t need to tell me anything. I already know all about your gratitude, your weakness and your willingness.”

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     While I sat, still and silent, I recalled my father-in-law telling me his favorite hymn—one he’d sung at several funerals—was “In the Garden.[1]” I’d also heard my mom sing this beloved-by-many hymn. I recalled the opening words in the first verse: “I come to the garden alone…” Wow! Today, those words were my reality.

     I barely comprehended this ‘pinch-me-if-it’s true’ realization. The reality felt overwhelming but also filled with incredible sweet peace and contentment.

     The refrain of the hymn proclaims,

And He walks with me, and He talks with me,
And He tells me I am His own;
And the joy we share as we tarry there,
None other has ever known.

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     In personal coaching, the coach, following a session, often says to the person being coached, “What was your takeaway from our time together?” So, as I retrieve my own Garden of Gethsemane recollections, I decide to play the role of coach, asking myself, the person being coached, “So, Sue, what was your takeaway from the 40 minutes you spent alone in the Garden?”

     Here are my answers:

  • The same loving Spirit who walked with the agonizing ‘fully God/fully man’ Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane walks with me whether I’m sitting on a quiet bench in a historically-rich garden in Israel or puttering about in my little garden beds in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho.
  • God may be less concerned about my gratitude or my submission—although both are vital—than about my willingness to be present fully in order to experience divine relationship. Spending time to simply walk and talk with God is time well spent.
  • God will give me the strength, the ability and the willingness to walk through any situation life brings my way.
  • Time I spend with God is exclusively mine. I realize over 30 other people were in the Garden of Gethsemane with me that early-October day. Each communed in his or her own special way. Each carried his or her unique story, wants, needs, insufficiencies and devotion to the Garden. Yet, the Spirit of our same Living God was able to meet each in a personal, tailor-made, relevant way.
  • Finally, my memory of spending time walking and talking with God in the Garden of Gethsemane is one I always want to hang on to.

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     Today, I pray God will bless you with peace and joy as you travel your own unique and significant journey…

Sue Reeve

  1. Lyrics to In the Garden, by Charles Miles, 1913
    1. I come to the garden alone,

      While the dew is still on the roses,

      And the voice I hear falling on my ear

      The Son of God discloses.

    2. He speaks, and the sound of His voice

      Is so sweet the birds hush their singing,

      And the melody that He gave to me

      Within my heart is ringing.

    3. I’d stay in the garden with Him,

      Though the night around me be falling,

      But He bids me go; through the voice of woe

      His voice to me is calling.

      • Refrain:

        And He walks with me, and He talks with me,

        And He tells me I am His own;

        And the joy we share as we tarry there,

        None other has ever known.

    Note: For more information about your own trip to Israel, we recommend highly Dan and Sharon Stolbarger, our group leaders. If this is a trip you’d love to make, check them out at http://holygroundexplorations.com/

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2 thoughts on “I Came to the Garden…

  1. We toured Israel in November 2010 and went to the Garden. Not only are your photos fabulous, but I really appreciated your insight. Thanks for sharing!

  2. We toured the Garden in November 2010. Not only are your photos fabulous, but I really appreciate your insight. Thanks for sharing!

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