Please turn in your Bibles to Matthew chapter 26. If you have been tracking with us through our teaching series on Matthew's Gospel, you know that we are nearing the focal point of Jesus' death and resurrection. And our teaching text for this morning comes to us from the night before. Let's stand together for the reading of scripture. Matthew 26:36. Just open your heart to receive all that God has for all that you are. "Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane and he said to them, "Sit here while I go over there and pray." He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, "My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here. Keep watch with me." Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, "My father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet, not as I will, but as you will." Then he returned to his disciples and he found them sleeping. "Couldn't you men keep watch with me for one hour?," he asked Peter. "Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak." He went away a second time and he prayed: "'My father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.' When he came back, he again found them sleeping because their eyes were heavy, so he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time saying the same thing. Then he returned to his disciples and he said to them, "are you still sleeping and resting? Look, the hour has come and the Son of Man is delivered into the hands of sinners. Rise. Let us go. Here comes my betrayer."


Take a seat. We got married at 19 and 21 years old. Don't try that at home. In the words of Clean Bandit, "we were just kids" and we are coming up next month in June on our 20th wedding anniversary. While we were…I feel like I should get an applause or something -- no, it's whatever now. Now it's not authentic, OK, for either of us. While we were dating, "T" was tired a lot and she just chalked it up to food allergies and gluten sensitivity and all of that. She was fine for the first few years of our marriage. But when Jude, our firstborn, came along, something turned inside of her body. As a child, she was bit by a tick and infected with Lyme disease right around the age of six, but wasn't hospitalized and diagnosed until the age of 11. By that time, the virus had wreaked havoc in her nervous system and as best we can understand it, done permanent damage to that central kind of part of her soma, her person. She thought that was mostly kind of behind her. But pregnancy did something to trigger late stage Lyme in her body. At first, her symptoms were frustratingly vague, you know, chronic fatigue, mental fog. But that really had an impact on our quality of life and our marriage. I mean, how do you have a healthy marriage when your spouse can barely string together a cogent sentence a lot of the time? Or get out of bed in the morning? We tried pretty much everything, doctor after doctor. Eastern, Western, paid for by insurance, not paid for by insurance, all of therapy after therapy. But she kept getting worse. And rather than getting better, chronic illness, as many of you know from experience, is a form of psychological torture. Grief is hard enough when there's an event that you have to recover from. But what about when the grief just goes on and on and on and there's no end to the pain? There's only acceptance of the pain. People all over the world were praying for her. You as a church were so kind to us over the years. There were all sorts of prophetic words about her healing that I stopped listening to after a while, because she was still on a downward trajectory. Then, about five years ago or so, in a season of acute stress, kind of a long story, something just seriously took a turn for the worse in her body. She started to spasm and shake all over, in particular in her face. Her nervous system just went off the rails. She could not drive for fear of a seizure. She could not get out of bed for quite a while. We thought for sure that she was dying. Finally, she stabilized, but the prognosis was not good. She would most likely die young. And in the meantime, her quality of life would be very poor. And one of the many things that she was diagnosed with, and this is the short version of the story, was a rare neurological disorder I'd never heard of in the Parkinson's family. But it's based in the face, and your facial muscles. And basically over time, you lose control of your facial muscles and they spasm 24/7. If it progresses, you basically lose the capacity for speech or at least any kind of coherent speech. She made the mistake of Googling it, and said, "if that happens to me, I will become a shut in. I will never exit the front door of my house ever." And the neurologist said "there's a 50/50 chance of that happening to you." Suffice it to say, this was not the life that we had in mind on that beautiful June wedding day when I said, you know, that that classic line that those of us that have been down the aisle have all said for, you know, for better or worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness or in health, I meant what most of us mean by that: "for better, for richer and in health." That sounds great to me. That's like as long as it all works out, I'm up for it. And so, honestly, our hearts were full of disappointment. One of the great questions in spiritual life and just in life in particular as you get older, but it comes to a lot of us at a young age, is how do you handle disappointment? Well, because it comes to all of us. Pain and suffering come to knock on all of our doors. No one is immune. How do we handle it when our life is not going the way we wanted it to, when it's not trending up and to the right, when it's not Instagram-able and any sense of the word? I'm sure that some of you are doing great on this beautiful Memorial Day weekend. And the last thing you feel you need is a teaching on how to navigate disappointment. But as a mentor of mine says to me regularly, "whenever things are going well, John Mark, always ask yourself what's going to go wrong next?" Now, [what that is] for someone like me, is terrible advice for some of you. But for someone like me who is an idealist and a bit of a recovering (or not recovering) control freak, that's not cynicism. That is wisdom. That is how I need to posture myself toward the future. As another mentor of mine said to me recently: "Being OK is not an adequate foundation for life. If your strategy to make your inner world OK is to make your outer world OK, that is a strategy doomed to fail. It's only a matter of when, not if." And when that happens, when it just doesn't work out. What then? There are sociologists who argue that the primary American emotion is disappointment. Some of that is due to America's myth of progress. The idea that life is this forward march, this kind of Darwinian evolutionary view, economic, capitalistic kind of model of human history and kind of human society, it's all kind of onward and upward, very liberal, very progressive idea. Some of it is due to sloppy theology in the church often and our well-meaning desire to encourage people to live by faith, we often accidentally preach either a kind of prosperity gospel kind of the best is yet to come a hashtag or a weird theological determinism of God's in control, as if every event of pain and suffering is some like divine blueprint to make you better. That's not all bad, but I wonder if in doing so we're preaching not the gospel of Jesus, but what my therapist calls the gospel of upward mobility. We follow a rabbi whose life ended not in glory, but in shame, whose life ended on the cross, and if we don't if we lose sight of that trajectory of our rabbi, we end up with a skewed view of life that just does not set us up well at all for the inevitable pain and suffering of the human condition.


So I guess my question for us this morning is not only how do we deal with disappointment, but how do we just deal with emotional pain in general? A lot of us either have felt or are feeling or will continue to feel after the last year, the full spectrum of anger, anxiety, sadness, insecurity, greed, lost envy, jealousy, restlessness, you know, insecurity and uncertainty over the future. All of the emotions that come with transition – which even in a good transition like to a post-Covid world – come with feelings of grief and loss for the past and uncertainty and fear for the future. Coming off a traumatic year, one of the tasks before us this summer as we emerge from the pandemic is to kind of take a breath and process at an emotional level and grieve what we need to grieve -- we've lost a lot over the last year -- and find a way to integrate that into our life and make peace with it in order to live a healthy life as we move forward. But honestly, most of us have a basic idea of what to do with the good feelings like happiness or wonder or gratitude or anticipation. But we don't have a very good template, particularly in our culture and often in religious culture as well, for how to deal with the, quote, bad feelings. And I don't mean that in a moral sense. I mean that in the ones that do not feel good. As always, Jesus is the one we look to. Let's just work through that text one more time, line by line. Verse 36. "Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane." Gethsemane was a garden, as the Brits would say, or a park [in] an olive orchard. Some of you, I'm guessing, have been to Jerusalem. That's just right across the Kidron Valley. It's like not far away at all from Jerusalem. The word Gethsemane literally means olive press. It was the tool by which an olive was crushed to release its oil for other people to use, a fitting kind of word, picture and the location for Jesus to unburden his heart to God the night before the cross. He's coming to get somebody in more ways than one. The cross is his all the where he was literally crushed to release his oil, so to speak, his life to you and me and the world. And like Jesus, we all come to our own Gethsemane in our spiritual journey at some point, and it's a place of pain. He says to his friends, "Sit here while I go over there and pray." He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee. Those were the three of the twelve that he was closest to. And he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Notice that language. He began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, "My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me." He began to be - meaning in therapeutic language -- he intentionally started to feel his feelings on purpose to just take stock, go out a combination of some kind of silence and solitude and some community, and in that safe place just kind of start to feel what was under the surface. And they were raw and intense and full of pain to the point that he's saying to his friends, I'm overwhelmed. Ever feel that? Like it's beautiful. That word itself is a beautiful word picture. I don't have enough space to contain this much pain. "It's too much for me. Like, I literally can't contain it. I can't hold it. I'm overwhelmed." And then he says, "I need you with me." Notice, here's Jesus in touch with his feelings, saying to his closest friends, I need you to help me shoulder this emotional load. That is not how a lot of us view Jesus at all. Going a little further, verse 39. "He fell with his face to the ground." I mean, notice the level of drama here in agony. And he prayed, "my Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will." Now, cup here was a first century idiom for your allotment of pain and suffering in life. We in a secular culture would say, you know, the hand you've been dealt or, I don't know, more Christian language, the burden that you bear. He's referring to the cross, which is now just not even days but hours away. If there's any other way, God, than this arrest and sham trial and shame and public ignominy and torture and blood and death and darkness at multiple levels, if there is any other way, God, but whatever you will. Then [verse] 40, he returned to his disciples and he found them sleeping -- often even our closest friends we cannot rely on. "Couldn't you men keep watch with me for one hour?" This is not like a forty day fast. One hour. He asked Peter "watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak." Then he went away a second time and he prayed again. This is interesting. "My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done." So notice, he's starting to shift in his heart. It's the same basic prayer, but there's more openness to whatever God has. "When he came back, he again found them sleeping because their eyes were heavy. So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time saying the same thing. Then he returned to the disciples and he said to them, Are you still sleeping and resting? Look, the hours come, the Son of Man is delivered into the hands of sinners. Rise." He's ready for what's next. Let us go together. Here comes my betrayer. Here comes my cup to drink. There's so much we can learn here from Jesus about how to navigate our own Gethsemane moments. And most of us will likely never face anything as dramatic or horrific or evil. But we will all face our mini Gethsemane. All face some moments, major or minor, when there's just a cup that is ours to drink. And it's not what we want and it doesn't work out how we want it. Before we analyze Jesus' response, there are at least three or four other responses in the story that are worth thinking about for a minute.


First, there's the response of Peter. And in the very next story (if you keep reading) when the soldiers come to arrest Jesus, what does Peter do? Yeah, one of you knows, thank you, Christian, well done. He cuts off the ear of the servant of the high priest. I mean, he's literally like trying to fight it off. He's railing against the cup, the circumstances of his life. He's trying to bend reality to his will. [It's] what Steve Jobs made famous with his "reality distortion field," as people called it. But if this is our response to pain and suffering, a reality distortion field to fight tooth and nail, to deny reality or just to assault it with brute force of will to pull out our sword and fight back, which is comical when you think about it, we will inevitably bend not reality, but our own heart and close it and cut it off from God, from others and from itself, and often bend other people and cause great damage to their soul. I think of Steve Jobs as well. That same reality distortion field, if you've read his biography that gave us the iPhone, also denied that he had a daughter for years and caused tremendous pain to her. Don't get me wrong, I'm all for changing the things that we can change. If there's something bad in your life that you can get out of or fix, by all means, do it. Don't roll over and play dead. The problem is, and we realize this, especially as we get older, that some problems, in fact, much of life simply can't be changed or fixed or solved. There's no work around. There's no silver bullet, there's no app, there's no pill. Can't be fixed. Can only be accepted, grieved. Forgiven. Released and embraced. The way of Peter is to not go quietly, but to "rage against the dying of the light," as Dylan Thomas famously put it.


Next is the response of Judas, who also in the very next paragraph turns away from following Jesus. He looks for life from another source for salvation, not from Messiah Jesus, but from Rome, one that is free of pain and suffering. He's on the search for a resurrection without a death or cross beforehand. Jesus warned this would happen in his parable of the four soils. He warned of those whom "when trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away." Think of how many of our brothers and sisters that we love quickly fell away over the last year or two. The way of Judas is just to stop following Jesus when he doesn't deliver the life that you want or when you don't agree with him or you just don't like his path that is marked out for you. And just to go your own way to look for another messiah, another source of salvation, another source of the life you crave.


Next is the response of Thomas, who earlier in the story, when Jesus says he's going to Judea, where he's going to die, Thomas has this great deadpan line. "Let us go to Jerusalem so that we may die with him." Thanks, Thomas. That's really hopeful. Love your faith and your confidence there. You know, all through the Gospels, Thomas is kind of like the stoic of the group, like he's the skeptic from to the very end, which he could well be. Stoicism was at the height of its popularity as a philosophy, though, has made a comeback in recent years due to Ryan Holiday and Tim Ferriss and The Daily Stoic and all that kind of stuff. Stoicism, which developed in ancient Greece, as most of you know, was kind of the original secularism. The Stoics, as I understand it, basically said, "listen, we don't really know if the gods are real or not, but either way, they don't seem to be all that involved. So let's just get on with the business of living." And the stoic approach is basically to lower your expectations, to expect things to go badly, which is not all bad advice by any stretch of the imagination. Sociologists use that formula: happiness equals reality minus expectations. That is basically the story of my life right there. It's why so many wealthy, successful, upwardly mobile people are miserable and neurotic and so many people who really don't have a lot going for them at a socioeconomic level are full of deep joy. A lot of it has to do with your expectations. But stoicism was developed in a worldview where there is no resurrection, there's no Jesus coming back from the dead on Easter. It's an Easter-less world. There's not even life after that. There's no meaning or purpose from God or the gods. It's just you and best practices to live well until you die. And there's a lot we can learn from stoicism. I just read the Ryan Holiday book last week and it was odd, and really good, and really secular at the same time. But we live in a world view where Jesus' death and resurrection and the coming of the Spirit has dragged the future into the present. It has opened up a portal to the Kingdom of God and the here and now and every day with that, as we're living in the Kingdom everyday brings a new opportunity for miracles to surprise and delight our soul. We live in a world that is now charged with wonder in a God saturated world that is full of his goodness and his loving hand. So stoicism, as helpful as it is for the upper middle class, is missing the key ingredient of hope. And if you shut that part of you off, that hopeful part of you and you just lower your expectations, and when bad things happen, you just kind of turn it in your mind into a good thing to grow. There's some wisdom in that. But you will let a crucial component of your soul die. I think it's that same place inside us where our passion comes from and where our compassion comes from. And both of those things will start to wither on the vine. We have to keep that part of us alive no matter what tragedy we face. So that's the way of Thomas.


And then finally there's the way of the twelve, which is just the most straight down the middle. It's the most popular. It's my personal favorite. They just sleep like that. Works really well for me a lot of the time. Right. And this is a lot of our M.O. When things get hard or sad, we just sleep, literally. Or we just numb our pain by escaping into our cultural narcotic of choice, be that work or eating out or busyness or travel or sexuality or friends or social life, we just disappear into the black hole of Netflix or doom scrolling on Instagram and TikTok. And it's worth saying that for some, spirituality is an escape from reality, not a way of making peace with reality. For some, even Christian spirituality, not true Christian spirituality, but an Americanized version of it is a way of falling asleep, not a way of waking up. Robert Masters calls this spiritual bypassing, which is a great term. He defines it as the tendency to use spiritual ideas and practices to sidestep or avoid facing unresolved emotional issues, psychological wounds and unfinished developmental tasks. Which is especially an acute temptation for those in the charismatic stream of the church, which we identify with, we spiritualize our emotional pain and we use spirituality to hide from God and our own soul. It's just sleeping in church. It's the way of the world.


Now, let's compare and contrast those ways with the way of Jesus. What does Jesus say? Not to Judas because he wasn't there, but to Peter and Thomas and the rest of the disciples, "watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation." First, watch. The church fathers and mothers use this text right here and others to develop an idea they called nexus in Greek, which means watchfulness or wakefulness. In fact, did you know that they were often called the wakeful fathers or the wakeful mothers? They were woke way before anybody else was woke. It was the word used for a century on patrol in the dark of night, eyes open to the darkness for any kind of threat.Saint Seraphim said "the mind of an attentive person is the sentry, the sleepless guardian placed over the inner Jerusalem." Your mind is like a sentry. It's just on the lookout for any thought or emotion or temptation to come into your inner woman or man. Saint Theophan gave us this advice. "Stand at the door of the heart and watch carefully everything that enters or goes out from there." Evagrious of Pontus, a favorite of mine, said: "Be the door keeper of your heart and do not let any thought come in without questioning it. Question each thought individually. Are you on our side or the side of our foes? And if it is one of ours, it will fill you with tranquility." They were just riffing on Jesus' teaching here. Watch. Keep your mind open like a sentry. Guard your heart in the language of Proverbs. Fortify your inner man or woman against temptation. Jesus is well aware that in moments of suffering and exhaustion, when we often feel alienation from God and not close to his presence, we are especially vulnerable to temptation, to deceit, to lies, to error, to sin. Watch, watch. In that moment, don't fall asleep. Watch. And secondly, pray. Look what Jesus does in prayer. Three things. First, he gives God his feelings. We read that line. My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. I mean, just notice Jesus. There's no filter here. He's just raw and uncut. There's no edit. He just tells God how he feels. This, I would argue, is the beginning of prayer, of true prayer.


One of the reasons that and this is embarrassing for a lot of us to admit, but so many Christians find prayer just really boring, is that they're not actually praying. They're doing something else with their mind or their mouth or their body. We talk at God, not with God. And even when we talk with God, we edit, we hold back a lot of the stuff that we are actually feeling because it doesn't fit the Christian worldview or whatever. But have you ever read the Psalms? Do you realize like one of the first things I remember learning in seminary is, listen, you build zero theology out of the Book of Psalms. That's an overstatement. But there is a lot of really bad theology in the Book of Psalms. It's a lot of bad ideas in Psalms, a lot of horrific [things], like taking children and dashing them against the rock. There's a lot of stuff in there that, like I read and I feel guilty for like reading it. And it's in the Bible. Not only is it in the Bible, but it was somehow ordained by God as the template to teach you and I how to pray. Because the psalmists are often just far more honest than we are. We have all of those feelings. How many of you don't ever have feelings of revenge, or hate, or anger at your enemies or a sense of alienation from God. Or fury at God that he hasn't delivered you on what you felt He promised you, or what you think is owed to you, or you deserve. And we have all of these feelings, right or wrong. Not to moralize it– they're in us, whether we're honest about them or not. I love the John Ortberg line. "Prayer isn't a place to be good. It's a place to be honest." Apparently, Jesus is just not nearly as scared of honesty as we are, just like Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden with the fig leaves, we hide from how we really feel. We hide how we really feel from God and we hide from our community. And sometimes we even hide from ourselves. But prayer is a safe place to bring all that we are before all that God is. No edit button. You don't have to moralize. You can just let whatever is in there come to the surface under the loving gaze of a God whose defining character trait is compassion and who knows very well what it's like to feel everything that you're feeling. Jesus is a high priest who is tempted and every point as we are yet without sin. So first, he gives God his feelings. Then second, he gives God his desires. We read that line, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Now, as I said, the cup here is referring forward to the cross. Let the gravity of Jesus' prayer -- I did not pick up on this for years -- just let that sink in for a moment. If I'm reading this right, Jesus is basically asking the Father not to go to the cross. The climatic moment of his vocation has come and he's saying: "Dad, I just don't think I have it in me, I don't want to do it. There's got to be another way." In doing so, he's teaching us by example to bring God all of our desires, not just the good ones. Similar to our feelings. We have this mixed bag of feelings and we have this mixed bag of desires, a lot of which we're embarrassed or scared of. And so, again, we edit, we filter we and then we just end up bored and disconnected from our own self and from God. So often when I pray and when I ask God to do anything in my life, I filter through my desires, the ones that are good by my judgment, I give to God the ones that are bad. I just stuff or I ignore or feel guilty about or repent of, or whatever. And the ones that are ambiguous, which is a whole large chunk of them, just kind of swirl around in my head with no place to go. Half the time, I don't even know what it is I actually desire. I relate a lot to the Psalmist's prayer, "search me oh God. And know my heart" because I don't even know it sometimes. I mean, desire is complex and it's confusing and it's contradictory at times. And I often mistake my strongest desires, particularly the ones that are based in my body for my deepest desires that are down and not even past my emotions in my spirit. But Jesus gives God all of his desires good and bad. There's no filter. This could revolutionize the way you pray. What if in a moment of lust or temptation to lust when you so want to take that second look or third or click on that side or objectify that woman or man? What if rather than just feeling bad or even praying a prayer of repentance or even praying for help, what if you were just to tell God "I really want to lust after this person right now." "I really want to masturbate after this person right now." "I really want to go to this website right now." And you just want to tell God how you feel. "God, here is my desire for sexual objectification of another person for personal pleasure. God, I give you this desire." What if next time you feel greed rise in your heart -- this happened to me just a few days ago. I have this great car. It's wonderful, I love it. It's fantastic. It drives great. But, you know, it's, you know, 14 years old, which for an American that's ancient, you know, my son calls it a classic. I'm like, it's not really a classic. It's like 2006 or something like that. It's not really a classic, son, but whatever. But the new version of it drove past me on the road. And I thought to myself, oh, I need that. That would be really nice. Why? There's absolutely nothing wrong with mine. It drives great and I love it. But we all have those feelings, right? Something as silly as "oh that would be a great car." What if rather than just "oh I'm so terrible, I'm so materialistic. Jesus wouldn't even have a car." He would just bicycle everywhere and it wouldn't even be his own bicycle and, you know, whatever. Like what if just instead of berating myself, which is my personal psychosis, I were just to say God here, "this is so stupid and this is but it's in me. So God here is my desire for more than what I need." Or what if it's our feelings of shame at our hands and our memory, our fear. God, I'm so scared. What if we were just to give God all of our desires, what we want and what we don't want? Fear is like a reverse desire. Just bring them all to him and let him filter them out. That's what Jesus does. He gives God his feelings. Then he could God his desires. And then you're not done. And this is key to that second point. Then he gives God his trust, the iconic line, "not as I will, but as you will." It's not possible for this cup to pass from me. OK, your will be done." The fact was that Jesus' deepest desire underneath his other ones to not suffer, to not go through the pain, the rejection, all of that, the alienation, his deepest desire was for his Father's will to be done. To live in his Father's presence and for his pleasure, for God just to have his way through his life, whatever comes. I'm guessing that if you have the spirit of God in you, whether or not you're in touch with that desire, whether it's at the surface of your heart or way down, buried under a ton of layers of other stuff, that desire is in you. God, I want to live in your presence. I want to live for your pleasure. And I just may not want this, but I want your will to be done. I want freedom. Jesus was able to yield and surrender to God's loving purposes for his life. In Jan Johnson's language, a spiritual director and writer I love, he was able to let go of outcomes just to release outcomes to God. Ignatius of Loyola called this posture. Most people translate it into English from Spanish as indifference. Others argue freedom is a better word translation. His beautiful line from the spiritual exercises is "we should not fix our desires on health or sickness, wealth or poverty, success or failure along life or a short one, for everything has the potential of calling forth in us a more loving response to our life forever with God. Our only desire and our one choice should be this: I want and I choose what better leads to God's deepening life in me." To this end, most mornings I pray the welcoming prayer, if you're familiar with that, I've touched on it before. And it ends with the line "I let go of my desire for security, affection and control and embrace this moment as it is." I pray pretty much every single morning and most days multiple times throughout the day, because it's not just a prayer, it's a posture. It's a way of being before God and the world. We have to surrender the illusion of control because for most of us, that's exactly what it is, an illusion. Psychologists argue that the average American has about 15 percent of the control over their life. They think they do. Hence why so many of us are in therapy and widespread neurosis. Right? [Neurosis] is defined by psychologists as those who suffer more than they need to because we think we have way more control than we actually do. We play our part. We do what we can. We pray about it all, and then we let go. What happens, happens, we're not in control of outcomes, we don't need things to trend up and to the right. Just, "God, whatever leads to your deepening life in me. You. The Lord is my shepherd. I have all that I need, period. End of story." Jesus gives God his feelings. He gives God his desires. He gives God his trust.


I call this the Gethsemane prayer. And it's my best attempt to explain what it means to watch and pray when I'm feeling disappointment or emotions that I don't like or feel good to me or facing kind of an olive press kind of moment. I just use this simple, short template for my prayer. And you can do it in 30 seconds or 60 seconds. Just give God your feelings, give God your desires, and then give God your trust. Just let go. Turn that inner fulcrum, that part of you that is willful or willing. Just turn it from willful to willing, just yield to God. Your will be done. This is the way of Jesus. "The Way of Jesus" is what Pete Scazzero calls Emotionally Healthy Spirituality. How many of you have read his book? Great. If you're not familiar with him or his work, it is well worth your time. Pete, in fact, has been a pastor to me over the last year, year and a half through this transition. I was on the phone with him a few days ago, and it's just a deep well of wisdom. The thesis of his book is very simple in his own words. It is not possible for a Christian to be spiritually mature while remaining emotionally immature. But to say Jesus was emotionally mature doesn't mean he was happy all of the time. That's not what emotional health is. It's not just like a sunny disposition. And you're never sad. Like sometimes the emotionally mature response to life or injustice is grief or lament or protest or even anger. But Jesus was in touch with his emotions. He let them inform his self awareness without playing puppeteer from the shadows. The starting place for a lot of us in emotionally healthy spirituality is a kind of emotional, spiritual self inventory where we just take stock not only of what we're feeling, but what's underneath that, the desires, the trust structures that are deep under all of that. In Emotionally Healthy Spirituality, there's a principle entitled Look Beneath the Surface. In fact, the word picture used by Scazzero and it's on the cover of his book is that of an iceberg. And if you think about an iceberg, most of it is under the water and the famous analogy and our emotions are often the surface and underneath them is a whole world kind of waiting to be explored, which is scary for a lot of us. I remember chatting to my wife at multiple points throughout our journey and we're very different by personality. And she would say, I just don't want to go down there. I don't want to think too deeply. I don't want to pray too deeply. I don't want to feel too much because I'm scared of what might be down there. But God is waiting for us below the surface of our emotional life and our busyness and our hurry and our digital distraction or our Netflix subscription with invitations to move us deeper into union with him and transformation into his image. I've used this before. I think it originally comes from Dr. Larry Crabbe, who is a Christian therapist and spiritual director. It's also an iceberg image with three levels. You know, level one is the managed life in his language, where the driving question is how do I look and feel? Good. This is the question that all of us start out with. Right? The focus is on, quote, "living by a set of principles to be successful." Like, what? I mean, read the right books, listen to the right podcast, go to the right schools, master the right techniques. You know, I love some cynics who have said that technique is to secular people what superstition was to religious people, down through history. Like if we can just master the right technique for parenting or your abs routine or work or whatever, then you can have a suffering-free life. It's just another vain attempt to control fate. But at some point, even if you do not mature you age. And you get hurt, then you're into what he called the wounded life. Where the driving question is: what can I do to get back to looking and feeling good? The focus is on doing whatever it takes to solve the pain or problem, to get back to the managed life. And sometimes it works. You figure out the right life hack, you get the right therapist, you get a new job, you work the thing out and you get back on top, but you never mature. Other times, it doesn't work at all. Again, there's just a problem that doesn't have a solution. There's a relationship that -- there's no way to reconcile it. There's a wound. There's a chronic illness that literally is a wound that will not heal. As Pema Chodron said, "we think that the point is to pass the test, to overcome the problem. But the truth is that things don't really get solved. They come together and they fall apart. Then they come together again and fall apart again." It's just like that. The healing comes from letting there be room for all this to happen. Room for grief, for relief. For misery, for joy. When you come to that point, and for many of us, the last year was that point, you receive an invitation to level three what Crabbe called the forming life, where the driving question is what is God doing in this and through this and in me? And your focus is on, quote, "allowing the Holy Spirit to do his work through the pain." Whenever you face, what the writer of James called a "trial," everything in you will want to journey up. To do all that you can to get back to looking and feeling good. But if you want to grow and mature and let God expand, enlarge your soul and your capacity for love and joy and peace and wonder and gratitude, then you have to journey down. You have to receive the counterintuitive invitations of the Spirit, what some have called the spirituality of dissent, and shift the question from how can I get out of this to what can I get out of this? And as you've not done it yet, I highly recommend that you get out your journal and you articulate what you sense the spirit of God is trying to do in you and through you, through this year of the pandemic and suffering and loss and grief, whatever emotions you're feeling, just get it out, journal and see if you can articulate this is what I think. These were the invitations of Jesus. I mean, I have seven written in my journal. I look at it at least once a week on my Sabbath, either the seven invitations of what I think Jesus is trying to work in my spiritual formation through this season of suffering and pain. Because I do not want to go through all of this and come out unchanged and all for naught. I want to come out with a whole new reservoir and resilience for whatever comes next, because it will, God willing, come back together again, hopefully by July. And guess what? At some point it will fall back apart. The healing comes from making -- you're like this is not a prosperity gospel church. You bet your bottom dollar, which you're welcome to give to us because that's the problem. But it is not.


To end. A few years ago, Chris and Merrill Vinon, he was here just recently, have been pastoring my wife and I for years through the disappointment of T's chronic illness and our marriage asked a strange question. They asked if there were any generational curses on her family line. That was odd to us. They grew up in, you know, South Africa, a more spiritually charged environment, and had a little bit more familiarity with that. I grew up on the West Coast of America, so it's not really in my paradigm. I actually have a theological category for that. It's all over the Scriptures, Old and New Testaments, but zero experiential category for it. So that just lodged in the back of our memory, sat there for a few years. I'm not sure how you find that out. Is there like an test where you can, like, send in your DNA and they're like there's a generational curse from whatever, you know? And long story short, last August, T found out about this crazy story of a generational curse put on her great grandmother, who [was] in Mexico City. It's a long story. Her great grandmother was in an illicit relationship with a diplomat from Cuba. They had eight children together out of wedlock. And she found out at the end that the man was actually married and had put his wife in a mental institute in an insane asylum. And his wife found out about my wife's great grandmother in Mexico City, and hired a shaman. So the story goes as it comes to us to curse her family line and get this. The curse was that every firstborn daughter would either die young or be struck with chronic infirmity. Now, we knew there was all sorts of illness on Tammy's side of the family. We had never connected the dots. It is all firstborn daughters. She's the fourth generation, every single first born daughter. I forget how many there are, but four generations. There was a lot. [They] had either died. Eight years old, fifteen years old, thirty years old her or had just horrific health issues. Her aunt has had, I think, 103 surgeries, one of the most chronically ill people we've ever known. There was one exception. Tammy has a cousin who's in her 30s who was fine. And the day before we went to this prayer thing, we got a call saying that her cousin was just diagnosed with stage four throat cancer and it's not looking good. So every single first-born daughter for four generations has -- I'm not making this up -- like I'm very cynical about all of this stuff. And at some point you're like just the -- I'm bad at math, but I know the statistics and probability. I remember that class from college. I took one, that one because it was easier than calculus. And I remember that's not very that's not very likely. And so we search out with a little help from Gerry Breshears and others, an exorcist who lives in Portland, or in Oregon and does some of this work, who's a not weird person, who does a really weird thing, which is exactly what we were looking for, somebody we could trust. And we set up this meeting and we drove to this thing and we were fasting and praying for days. All of our friends and family and community were fasting and praying. It's a long story, but we get there. We begin this prayer session. My wife comes into the room to sit down, to pray. We do some pre-work. And her body, the moment she walks through the door, starts wigging out. And my wife is very relaxed. She's the opposite of me. She's so not neurotic. She's very relaxed and grounded. And her body just starts freaking out, spasming all over the worst it ever has. One eye is spasming so bad it won't open. The other -- it's like out of a horror movie -- blinking up and down her jaw is shaking her legs are shaking back and forth. And she's like, "I don't even know what" – she has no idea what's happening to her. He leads us through this very short, non-weird prayer, and at the end, when he gets to that last line and he has a repeat after me after him and she says this line, you know, I renounce -- whatever the exact line was -- "I renounce this generational curse on my family line, in the name of Jesus and by the blood." Immediately her entire body goes perfectly still, perfectly. Her eyes by the way, I've been spasming for about five years straight, first time ever, perfectly still. Her eyes open up, her chest lifts back. It's like you can see almost something depart off of her. She would say it's like she was living under a cloud that she was so used to she didn't even realize it was there. And it just lifted off of her. Her skin, like she woke up the next morning. Her skin was glowing. She looked, I'm not lying. She looked 10 years younger for about two weeks. I kept doing these, like, double takes at my wife. "You're really hot. This is amazing. Like what in the world?" You know, that was October 15. She has been 100 percent symptom free since that day. Really cool. Now, I tell you that happy ending for a number of reasons, one, that's because we're family and a lot of you have been praying for us and asking and we just wanted to wait a while to kind of test that healing before we kind of let that out. And we just want to say thank you to all of you that have been praying and fasting for her for years and to encourage those of you that are in your own kind of spiritual journey. And right now, you're very much not at that spot. But I hesitate to tell it at all, because not all stories have a happy ending like that. I didn't think that ours would. We had finally just come to peace with the opposite expectation. But now as we look back, we see with more clarity just how much God did through those years, those long years. It was a very long journey for us with chronic illness. And as great as her healing was – and she literally is just living in daily gratitude right now. If she were here with you, if she was on stage right now, she would say that she would not trade that for the world, that decade plus of acute pain. She would not give up for anything because it formed and it forged her character and it forced her and me below the surface of the iceberg. And she found God there. And she found a calling from God there for her future and a vocation for her future. And the reality is, however, your story ends, whether it ends with applause or execution, as it did for Jesus, God is waiting for us there in our Gethsemane below the surface. And either way, the invitation is for you and for me to meet God in our own Gethsemane and our own olive press and the things that we want out of, but there's no way to get out of and stay in love. He's waiting there for you to just give him and me to just give him our feelings and our desires and above all, our trust. Because he is more than just a good rabbi who, you know, has a really helpful, helpful template for how to navigate emotional pain. He is a God who went to Gethsemane of his own free will for you and me. Jesus was killed. Yes, he was executed by the state, but he chose it. He could have got up in this story and said, "this is too much." And he could have walked out of Gethsemane, walked back home to Nazareth and just been fine. Most likely had a very good career as a Jewish rabbi. But he chose, rather, to give his life to take on our pain and suffering on his shoulders, to draw our sin to a focal point in his body, to drink the cup that should have been ours, because that's what love is. It is suffering on behalf of others and not walking away. And Jesus is love. And because of that, he was more than worthy of our trust.


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