I have been reading along, following Jesus in His journey to the cross (Week 3 in the Ignatian Exercises) this Lenten season. This morning I was reading about when Jesus was arrested.
Then Jesus said to the crowd, “Am I some dangerous revolutionary, that you come with swords and clubs to arrest Me? Why didn’t you arrest Me in the Temple? I was there teaching every day. But this is all happening to fulfill the words of the prophets as recorded in the Scriptures.” At that point, all the disciples deserted Him and fled. –Matthew 26:55-56
It occurred to me, the disciple’s departure was a two-part thing: They deserted him. And then they fled.
I stopped and pondered this and had the realization their desertion was internal as they gave in to fear and confusion. Their hearts were turning away from Jesus before they started running. What they were seeing, right before their eyes, just didn’t add up to their idea of who they thought Jesus was. None of this should be happening. Their own expectations tripped them up.
What followed their (internal) desertion, their failing faith in the Jesus, was their flight. They were trying to save themselves. Their actions were the natural outflow of what they were thinking and feeling. This is how us humans roll.
Circumstances in our lives can be hard. Painful.
Jesus wants us to know, He knows what’s going on.
There is nothing surprising to Him.
Honestly, even little things can cause my heart to take a turn from Him. This can take very subtle forms. As I read, I was reminded how easily expectations can bring me down. When that happens, off I go, looking for escape strategies. We all have our favorites, don’t we?
It is helpful for me to look at the places I flee to when I am confused, hurting and/or stressed. What am I doing and why? These are clues as to when my heart isn’t right. A bit of self-awareness goes a long way. We can ask God to show us what (so called) safe places we look to, which lure our hearts and minds away from Him. We can learn to see when we have taken the deep dive into trying to control things that feel out of control (and often are). Unhealthy food, worry, and unnecessary busyness are a few of the numbing strategies I habitually like to employ. They can be red flags, if only I look for them. I need to pay attention and ask myself where the root of it lies.
What’s bothering me? What do I need to take to God?
It is good for me to recognize the ways I abandon my faith in a loving God and turn to lesser things, unsatisfying things, self-sabotaging things, in order to try to save myself in the moment. Save myself from making a hard decision or from facing pain. Things I might do to avoid and deny aren’t usually bad in themselves. But when and why I do them can be worth paying attention to. I have found hope and peace in the Lord countless times. Why do I settle for so little?
Jesus knew his disciples were going to split. Self-preservation is a strong motivator, built into us as humans. But He also knew His words would come back to them as they put the puzzle pieces together and figured out there was great intent in His suffering and death. The majestic King of Glory, the Bright Morning Star, surrendered to the cross for all of mankind. He was teaching and training them even in this most dark hour. He does that with all of us if only we will look and see. He is always with us in our darkness. Following Him with a trusting heart is the life we are called to lead as His beloved children. Walking closely with Him helps us learn He is good and discern day by day what is good for our souls.
This morning, as I was processing all of this, my reading took me to Psalm 23 where verse 6 spoke to my soul.
Surely Your goodness and unfailing love
will pursue me all the days of my life,
and I will live in the house of the Lord forever.
It was a beautiful reminder. God’s goodness and love are with me. He pursues me, even as I run. He knows what’s up with me. He knows when I am off balance, and why. It means everything to me to know, He knows my skittishness, my fickleness, and my frailty – and loves me still.
His love is unbreakable, unfathomable, and without boundaries.
Somehow in His goodness, He reminds me and gently brings me back to Himself, over and over again. And I can say with the Psalmist,
Return to your rest, O my soul,
For the Lord has dealt bountifully with you. –Psalm 116:7
What might be causing your heart to “desert” the Lord in distrust and confusion?
What activities do you flee to for solace when you are stressed?
What would it look like for you to bring the things on your heart to Him?