Last night was Maundy Thursday, where Christians remember the night Jesus gave a new commandment to love one another, the night he broke bread and passed a common cup to his disciples, the night he went to a garden to pray and asked his disciples to stay awake with him and watch—even for one hour—and they did not. The night he was betrayed and arrested and handed over to death.
I spent most of the day yesterday at the Huntington Library and Gardens with my mother and sister and a friend. We wandered through the gardens all afternoon, ate lunch at the cafe, showed ThriverBabe around the children’s garden, and generally just enjoyed the sunshine and cool breezes and green spaces.
We hit LA rush hour traffic on the way back, and I watched the minutes tick by, stealing away the one- to two-hour buffer I’d planned to have between getting back home and packing up to go to church at 7. I really didn’t want to go to church. I wasn’t in the mood for Maundy Thursday.
I felt a sudden connection to the disciples in the garden.
I was tired, you see. ThriverBabe for reasons mysterious but no doubt very important to him decided not to go to sleep until 11:45 pm the night before, and then we’d spent all day at the gardens and he’d hardly napped. I was tired, and he was going to be cranky, and I knew he wasn’t going to be up for sitting still through a long service that started an hour before his bedtime.
We went to the service anyway, and it was even more difficult than I anticipated. Having been toted around in his stroller and car seat for much of the day, our son decided that 7:00 pm was exactly the right time to start practicing his exciting new standing skills in the pews and showing off his best high pitched squeals and loud, tired moans. ThriverDad and I took turns taking him out into the narthex when he got too loud and squirmy.
I sat on the floor of the narthex with him for the entirety of the sermon, letting him crawl and lunge and stand and babble and play with his stuffed elephant. My back and arms and legs ached from the day’s exertion, but the sermon was rich with truth. I watched my son playing on the floor, and I thought about how the service kept going on around us. And it made me grateful.
First I was grateful for a place where we could come and be fed when we’re exhausted and not at our best. Then I was grateful for the church year, that it goes on around us and continues whether we’re ready or not. It doesn’t slow its pace for us, and it never lets us get too comfortable in any one season or frame of mind.
I wasn’t ready for Maundy Thursday, but Maundy Thursday was going to happen anyway. I could be in it and a part of it or not, but it would happen without me if I stayed away. I could press in, rematch my pace, and rise to the challenge, or I could press away. And that’s the thing about the Christian life. It’s a perpetual invitation to run, to become holy even as the Father is holy. The race will go on without you even if you’re tired and decide not to show up.
Maundy Thursday and Good Friday and Easter will happen whether you show up or not.
What’s more, the resurrection will happen whether you show up or not.
I’m trying to be the kind of person who shows up, even when I’m tired and the sun is shining and it seems like a better day for an early bedtime than for remembering Jesus’s betrayal and arrest and the start of his steps to Calvary.
Jesus asked his disciples to watch and stay awake for even one hour. I want to be the kind of person who can rise to the challenge with an unhesitating yes.
Blessed Holy Week to you all.
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