Here in Groningen every year for Good Friday they have an amazing flower market. Both squares and side streets are packed with vendors selling potted plants, cut flowers, trees, shrubs, seeds, herbs…everything you can imagine growing in your home or garden. It is an explosion of color, people and pollen.
It is a very festive atmosphere and always fun to wander around in. I don’t believe it is meant specifically as a celebration for Good Friday but it is always a bit odd for me to be contemplating the significance Jesus’ death while being surrounded by such an abundance of life. I have been thinking a lot about Good Friday during this Lenten season and most significantly about how desperately Jesus wanted to avoid the cross but ultimately submitted himself to the path laid out for him.
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.” 37 He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. 38 Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.” 39 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.” Matthew 26: 36-39 NIV
He prayed that prayer 3 times (on his face) before the guards took him away for the trial, conviction and ultimate crucifixion (the reason for Good Friday). The desperate plea for the cup to be taken has much more significance to me as I walked through Lent dealing with cancer. A difficult thing about the cancer treatment process is that you do a lot of waiting and anticipating for stages to come and pass. Jonathan and I had many conversations leading up to the surgery about how this feels like our Garden of Gethsemane. Where we so desperately wanted the cancer cup to pass us by and to not deal with the surgery, IVF, chemo, radiation, fatigue etc. It didn’t pass and the day came when the process started and we had to begin to walk the path. But our time spent in the “garden” transformed us because through the desperate, authentic prayers where we have cried out from the depths of our hearts…God met us, cried with us and helped us to know that he will sustain us. He knows and understands the anguish in our souls and is faithful to walk with us and carry us when necessary. We all have things in our life that we wish would pass and roads that if it were up to us we would not walk. Our character is developed in how we choose to face these moments and our faith is deepened in how we involve God in the process. But it is never as clean or simple as these words make it sound. It can be gut wrenching, wall punching, curling up in a ball trying to avoid the world, crying to the point where there are no tears left, having your spirit crushed and not knowing whether you can continue forward…God still gets it…in Gethsemane Jesus’ soul was “overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death”. He was in such distress that he sweated blood. But he was given the strength when he needed it to move forward…
I am thankful for the cross this Good Friday. I am thankful for Jesus’ process leading up to the cross and for his submission to God’s will. I am thankful that he died for me and that in two days we will celebrate his victory over death…and through that victory I can face cancer/life and not be afraid.