There are so many things about my faith life that took on deep and new meaning when I became the mother of a child with special needs. The time leading to Easter always offers the opportunity to contemplate the life of Jesus in richer, more profound ways. Even in the busy-ness of raising an “extra-grace-required” children, these days bring to mind stories of Palm Sunday, driving out the money-changers in the temple, raising Lazarus, the Last Supper, and so much more around Jesus’ last hours on earth.
One snap shot of that holy, pivotal week in Christ’s life always seems to hold a place of heightened significance for me. I find a tremendous amount to identify with in the Garden of Gethsemane. My understanding of that story took an incredible turn about 18 years ago when I learned from historian, Ray Vander Laan, the meaning and significance of the word “Gethsemane” in his “That The World May Know” video series (now called “Faith Lessons”) for Focus on the Family.
A Gethsemane is an olive press; a large, columnar stone placed on stacks of burlap bags filled with cracked olives, which renders precious oil. That heavy, onerous rock had great worth. Not just anyone owned such a much-needed tool. A whole town’s economy revolved around that olive press, relying upon its mass to squeeze out a tremendously valuable commodity. The final product of that extruding process was a liquid that was used for cooking, cleaning, moisturizing, healing and even simple lighting.
How appropriate that our Savior should spend some of the final agonizing hours of his life, moving forward with one of eternity’s most difficult decisions, preparing to bear the heavy weight of our disobedience in the garden of the olive press. That crushing burden of facing rejection by both God and man even caused Jesus to sweat blood. And yet, our precious salvation was bought through that rendering of Christ’s life.
God tells us that He conforms us, His loved ones, more and more into the image of His Son throughout our lives. But unless we see the value of our own crushing burdens, we are likely to despise them. Patiently seeing our child with severe challenges through the development of new habits and routines yields healthy outcomes. Praying our child through painful, frightening hospitalizations builds a growing godly character in that child. Pressing on, persevering in praise when the bills and trials are overwhelming points more and more people to their only True Hope.
I personally think back on all of the things that have weighed me down over the years parenting these precious kids with special needs, and wonder how much I have missed by fixing my eyes on the burden rather than the blessing. What got past me because I was crying over my child having no friends? Did my lack of faith obscure the view of the amazing things God was doing amidst the suffering? How much richness has yet to be revealed once I get my mind off of paying the never-ending parade of medical bills? What made me forget that there is One to whom I am yoked that gives me the strength to carry such a load?
Yes, there are many crushing parts to parenting children like ours. But they pale in comparison to the precious things that pour forth from the weight upon our shoulders. These are things that cannot be revealed in any other way than by heavy extraction. What are the things that comprise your “Gethsemane”? Praise God today that He gave us Jesus to carry that heaviness with us, so that we need not bear up under it all alone.
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