How is it that you three were not able to keep watch with me for even one hour?
On his final night on earth Jesus asked three of his disciples to be near him while he prayed about what was to come. He felt the need for their companionship. Their presence apparently comforted him. Nevertheless he went off by himself to pray. When he returned he found that his friends had fallen asleep. Not once but twice. The scripture says they just couldn’t keep their eyes open.
I can understand that. The disciples were country folk, certainly overwhelmed by all the people, sights, and sounds of the big city of Jerusalem. Jesus was creating a lot of chaos and making a lot of enemies. He keeps telling them time and again that he is going to be killed before they leave the city. Jesus’ disciples must have been totally stressed out. And now, Jesus takes them out into the night, to a quiet, sweet place away from the noise of the city. A peaceful garden. An oasis of calm. And so they fall asleep.
I can understand it because I’m a “stress sleeper.” Stress exhausts me. The more stressed I get the faster I fall asleep. I don’t necessarily sleep well. I certainly don’t stay asleep all night when I’m stressed. But I have no problem whatsoever falling asleep. I know for a fact that if I’d been there I would have been snoring away with the rest of the crew.
It seems that Jesus is disappointed. He must have wanted them to pray, too, but instead they fell asleep. Maybe they did pray before they fell asleep. There is no way of knowing. What we know from this scripture is that they didn’t live up to Jesus expectations of them. They let Jesus down.
Over the years I’ve learned that’s the way it works. When I was younger it was my expectation that when trouble comes you should be able to count on the people you love to help you, but it doesn’t always work out that way.
My first husband was the definition of undependable. We were both very young and he was all over the place. I couldn’t count on him for much of anything. I remember one time when I was home alone and a terrible storm, maybe a tornado, roared through my neighborhood. One of hundreds of downed trees came down up against the house and broke several windows. I was terrified, especially because there was no basement. All I had was a closet. I was so mad that I had to go through that alone. I was really resentful.
My next and current husband (of 26 years) is the epitome of dependability. He is the most trustworthy person on the face of the planet. We do everything together and are rarely separated. We were married 25 years before we spent a night apart, and that was because of his hip surgery. Even then he didn’t want me to be alone so he paid for my sister to come stay with me while he was in the hospital. He’s a great guy and he takes such good care of me.
But there was one time when there was a women’s meeting at the church. He was the pastor and so he was expected to attend. I was also supposed to attend but I started feeling sick throughout the morning so I stayed home. He went off to the meeting, and I got sicker, and sicker, and sicker, and sicker. I was so sick I couldn’t do anything. It was back in the days before cell phones, and I was too sick to get to the phone. And while I was laying there on the bathroom floor, truly believing that I might be dying, I kept wondering why my dear husband didn’t come to check on me. I waited, and waited, and waited. I imagined him coming home and finding me dead. He was less than a block away. So near and yet so far. He finally came home, a couple of hours later than usual because the meeting ran long. And obviously I didn’t die.
So my poor husband will probably mortified that I wrote this. He reads my blog every day and we have great discussions about it which is so awesome. I must admit that I gave him a hard time about sitting down there at the church with those ladies and not even checking on me, but after that first day it was really just teasing. Mostly I was just really grateful to see him when he got back, and he did take good care of me.
But I learned something important that day. As I recovered, I reflected on how I had been so upset about that situation with my first husband and the tornado. I realized that even if you have the most dependable, loving husband in the world there will still be times when he won’t be there for you.
And then much later the situation was reversed when I was unable to stay with my mom when she was dying. She was completely incoherent and sort of desperately gasping for breath for a couple of days before she died. It seemed like she was in pain, even though they assured me she was not. There apparently wasn’t anything anyone could do except wait for her to die. She jerked away and yelled whenever we tried to touch her. It was horrible. I kept praying but I still felt like I was going to pass out. My dad couldn’t handle being in the room for more than a few minutes, so we had to make a choice to be with her or comfort him. We ultimately chose to stay with him while he waited. I still feel like I let her down because I wasn’t with her when she died. I loved her so very much. I don’t know. Maybe she would have preferred for us to stay with him, because she loved him and always did all she could do to make him happy. She hated making anyone feel bad, and didn’t like people around when she was sick. I only know it should have gone much better. Somehow. I still feel like I should have stayed with her.
There are times in this life when your friends and family will let you down through no fault of their own. No matter how much you are loved there are times when you have to go through things all by yourself. We can’t expect our loved ones to do something only God can do. God is the only one who’s always there no matter what. At those times when you find yourself all alone and in crisis, all you really have is God. It’s hard not to be disappointed when our friends and family don’t live up to our expectations. And it always happens sooner or later because no one is perfect. That is a characteristic of God, not husbands or daughters or anyone else. Like Martin Luther said, “Every man must do two things alone; he must do his own believing and his own dying.”
What does this scripture say to you?