David understood the aguish only those who have chosen to cross the brook Kedron and experienced the Garden of Agony can ever fully know or comprehend. David was a great warrior. As a young shepherd boy, still a child, still wet behind the ears, barely out of puberty, he stood gallantly and fearlessly against the Philistine giant Goliath. When even the most seasoned soldier, veterans in military combat were afraid to stand up against this 9 foot Herculean giant, David with his slingshot in hand went bravely to what most would have considered certain death.
David had no fear of battle or death. He had waded into combat and as a soldier had often shed blood. He was a great statesman. As king, he had ruled with regal ability. He was a great poet and had sung songs that will live as long as literature lives, even forever. But when the time came for David to enter his garden, he became a different man. His heart in excruciating pain, his soul in utter agony, his spirit at an all time low as he experience his Garden of Agony. He desired desperately to run away from the torment and pain of a broken heart and the consequences of sins that finally caught up with him.
You remember how much David loved his son Absalom. He often made excuses for him and overlooked his misdeeds. But Absalom was evil in heart and deceitful. Eventually he organized a revolt against his father and many of those who had been David’s closest friends and advisors joined Absalom’s marching army and before long it seemed as tough the entire country had risen in rebellion against David. But, later we learn that Absalom was killed on the battlefield and this is the point of detour for David. The time of reckoning had arrived. David suddenly found himself in the midst of his garden.
He loved Absalom and his death hurt David to the core of his being. So much so that he cries out in utter agony, “O my son Absalom-my son, my son Absalom-if only I had died in your place! O Absalom my son, my son!" (II Samuel 18:33). A broken heart is hard to bear. Take the spirit out of a man and what is left? In this second garden, David sat, a broken man. He wanted to escape to get away from the hurt, get away from the pain, and get away from the torture. In this garden, David did not care about anything except freedom from the excruciating agony.
So it is with all of us who confront our garden; whether we are on our beds of affliction, behind prison walls, or just struggling to live in the midst of life’s chaos and pettiness and brokenness. We know that when we get to Gethsemane, nothing else matters. When we are in our gardens, we don’t worry about the things that use to occupy our attention. When we are in our gardens, money is of no value and our education fails us. When we get to our gardens everything is closed out and we are shut down because this garden has a way of driving us to our knees in sheer despair. This second garden makes us, like David and Job and others, question the very crust of our being.
There is something about Gethsemane that when we enter it, everything else ceases to matter. All ideas of possessions or power or knowledge dissipate into nothingness because our backs are to the wall. This garden makes us cry out, Why me Lord, why me? We are driven to the brink of sanity and must cry out to God.
Jesus is in that position. And if we listen we can hear Him say,
“My soul is exceedingly sorrowful even unto death. So what I want you to do Peter, James and John is to tarry with me for a little. You were with me on the mount of transfiguration; you were with me in the house of Jairus, now I want you to come tarry with me. My load is heavy, my back is to the wall, the very people I came to save have turned their backs on me, come tarry with me for a short while. ”
Well, you know what happened. Jesus prayed while the disciples slept. So Jesus, letting the disciples go on and sleep, went to His place and poured out His soul to His Father. Oh yes, there is something about Gethsemane that drives us to our knees. There is something about the intensity of our suffering that makes us realize that when we are in this second garden, we must pray for ourselves as we have never prayed before. For it is in the garden where we die and it is in this garden where we are resurrected in new power, new strength and new life; or we are truly doomed.
Rev. Saundra L. Washington, D. D. , is an ordained clergywoman, veteran social worker, and Founder of AMEN Ministries. She is also the author of two coffee table books: Room Beneath the Snow: Poems that Preach and Negative Disturbances: Homilies that Teach which can be reviewed on her site. Her new book, Out of Deep Waters: My Grief Management Workbook, is expected to be available in July.
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