Staying awake to God
So it was with the first article in the newest Friends Journal that arrived today at my house. The author spoke about his first experiences of Quaker worship, coming to Friends, and the questions he had. Then he recounted the story of Jesus on the eve of his crucifiction, going into the Garden of Gethsemane on the Mount of Olives and taking leave of his disciples as he goes off to pray alone.
Each of the Gospels that includes this story, and different translations of the Gospels, use slightly different words to describe the instructions he gave to them before he went off by himself to pray. In the King James Version, Matthew and Mark use the phrase, "tarry ye here and watch." In Luke the phrase is "wait here and pray." Other versions use the phrase "remain here and stay awake." (Gallery, FJ June '06)
At that point, I started giggling.
10 AM is not my favorite time of day, especially not when First Day (the nerve of it!), immediately follows Seventh Day evening. On occasion, my eyelids have been known to droop-- entirely of their own accord, I tell you!-- in meeting for worship. I know from personal experience that sometimes, "stay awake" is an entirely accurate translation of, "wait here and pray."
I started thinking of all the times in my life when Jesus might well have commanded me to "stay awake." Watching a movie, riding a bus, taking notes in class- how often do I forget that God is there? How often do I fail to keep my eyes and heart open for God, letting my spirituality doze off as if the secular world was a bottle of Nyquil?
It has been a long, hard, emotionally draining week. I've been dragging myself along, losing context, losing focus, and drifting away from my center. I have fallen asleep. There is Christ in the garden, there he kneels, asking only my vigilance, my conciousness, and like Peter, I doze.
It is a human thing, to err, to fall asleep. But we have Christ within us, and are therefore not merely human; we have the capacity to be, also, divine.
When we honor that, we can stay awake to God.
We can see every moment as we walk through the world the beauty that has been created for us.
We can keep tender mercies always ready for anyone in need.
We can keep God always at the center of our hearts and minds, awake and aware, ready to hear the still small voice when it whispers.