We slipped past ancient olive trees, their grey-green leaves beckoning us closer. The stillness enveloped us as we walked into the garden of tall, slim evergreens and bare-leaved trees in the coolness of February. Instinctively, we whispered in the sacred space as we took our seats on the low stone wall at the edge of the path. We were on the Mount of Olives.
Last February, my husband and I took a long-anticipated trip to Israel. Our tour group was one of the last to have this experience before the world shut down. In the days leading up to the time in the garden on the Mount of Olives, we had already seen Nazareth where the angel Gabriel announced to Mary that she would be the mother of the Savior. We visited Capernaum, where Jesus did many of His miracles. We sailed on the Sea of Galilee where Jesus calmed the storm and His fearful disciples.
We sat in a garden on the Mount of Olives — perhaps not the exact site of the Garden of Gethsemane — but certainly similar. As we sat on the cold stone wall, we listened to our leader read about Jesus’ struggle in the garden — a struggle to willingly submit to His Father’s plan which ultimately meant betrayal, mockery, pain, and even death. After the Scripture reading, we listened to songs of Jesus’ sacrificial love. While the words “See from His head, His hands, His feet/ Sorrow and love flow mingled down” and “Love so amazing, so divine” played through my headset, tears streamed down my face in gratitude.
Too often, the stories of Gethsemane and Calvary are like well-worn paths in my mind that I’ve traveled so often I no longer notice what they mean. I’ve heard the accounts of Jesus’ suffering so often that the drops of blood, the thorny crown, the cruel nails no longer have the impact they once had. But the time on the Mount of Olives jolted me to awareness — awareness of Jesus’ pain, awareness of His battle with His human nature, awareness of His relentless love for me that propelled Him to the cross despite it all.
Why did it take a trip across an ocean to notice Jesus’ love for me? Why did I need a trip to an ancient garden to internalize His passion? God continually gives evidence of His love in the beauty of this world — even in my suburban Chicago neighborhood. In my ordinary days, He whispers His love through the thoughtfulness of my husband or the smile of a friend. Jesus constantly sends me love letters in His Word.
I determined to pay more attention to God’s gestures of love with a little experiment. While working at my computer, I set a timer to go off every hour or so. When the timer beeped, I stopped for a minute and focused on God’s love. Sometimes I would read or recite a favorite Scripture like, “You are precious in my eyes, and honored, and I love you” (Isaiah 43:4 ESV) or “I will love them freely” (Hosea 14:4 ESV). Other times I would listen to a favorite song about God’s love, immersing myself in the words and music for a few minutes.
As I continued this simple practice, I marveled at the difference it made in my work, my relationships, my attitude. When I focused on how much Jesus loved me right now, I felt less pressure to prove myself through accomplishment. When God’s relentless love filled my soul, I could better share that love with the people in my life without looking for something in return. When I remembered Christ’s unfailing love for me — demonstrated through His agonizing sacrifice — anxiety and doubt fell away.
I still cherish the time I had in the garden on the Mount of Olives, but I learned that you don’t need to go to Israel to experience God’s unconditional love for you. Try my experiment. Set a timer or alarm to remind you to pause several times during the day. During those pauses, remember God’s passion for you through reading His Word or listening to songs of His amazing love.
Remember, God continually pursues an intimate relationship with you and relentlessly loves you.Leave a Comment