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Grieving in the Garden

By: Cara Barth

“Woman,” He said, “Why are you crying?”
John 20:15

As I sat in church this past week and we read the “typical” after Easter story about how Jesus rose from the grave, I had some pretty amazing insights that had NEVER been there before. Now please don’t get me wrong, I am in no way undermining the Resurrection story, but if we are all honest about things, we have heard these scripture readings so many times, delivered pretty much the same way, that we find ourselves internally going, “yea, yea, I know…” BUT this year was VERY different for me.

If we unpack the sequence of events that take place in the garden where Jesus was laid after His crucifixion, we begin to find some telling perspectives around what happens to us as we grieve the loss of a loved one.

First of all, we become fearful/disoriented. Our whole world has changed and we become lost and confused.

“Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance. So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple…” John 20:1-2

Mary was fearful and went for help.

“So Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb. Both were running but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent over and looked in at the strips of linen lying there but did not go in. Then Simon Peter came along behind him and went straight into the tomb.” John 20:3-6

One of the Disciples stayed in fear but one jumped into the tomb to try and figure things out. Not truly understanding what is going on and feeling vulnerable, they leave; they leave Mary alone in her grief. The others are so wrapped up in their own thoughts they don’t even offer comfort.

“Then the disciples went back to where they were staying.” John 20:7-10

As stated earlier, we become fearful and disoriented and I don’t think they meant to be cruel or uncaring, they just had to withdrawal themselves from the situation.

“Mary stood outside the tomb crying.” John 20:11

Secondly, we start to frame everything around us through the eyes of our grief. We are in the fog and our perspectives become distorted. As we read on through the Resurrection story, we see Mary still being uncertain about what is happening. Mary looks again into the tomb as if to see if she’s missed something and she’s probably done this several times, “just to make sure.”

“As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot. They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?” “They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.” John 20:11-13

Now I don’t know about you, but if I’m sitting in a garden, by a grave and saw two “Angels,” I’d be so overjoyed that I would have seriously stopped my crying.

Mary, however, was in such shock from the trauma that had taken place over the previous days that all she could see was her loss of a loved one and her broken heart! How many of us have missed our “angels,” friends and family who wish to help during grief, because we have imploded into ourselves and the pain of loss?

“At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus. He asked her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?” Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.” John 20:14-15

Thirdly, when we take a moment to breath and quiet the “head talk” of grief, we hear the small voice of calm. Now I know Mary was overcome with emotion that morning and that was probably a huge reason she “missed” who Jesus was, but when she took a breath and listened to His voice, things changed.

“Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned toward him and cried out…” John 20:16

So in closing, I walked out of church thinking that Our Lord is often closest to us when we feel the most alone. Many times while going through a dark valley, we think God has abandoned us. But if only our eyes could be opened, we would see the Lord walking with us every step of the way. Just because we don’t see Him doesn’t mean He isn’t there. I was thankful for the new perspectives around the “Grief in the Garden” and it gave me comfort in knowing that humans have grieved much the same way for thousands of years.

“Grief can be the garden of compassion…

If you keep your heart open through everything,

Your pain can become your greatest ally in your life’s search for love and wisdom.”

~ Rumi

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