"Are We Going to Hit the Mountain?" + the Most Important Lenten Question

What do we know of fear? We’ve all had close calls, moments of terror. Some have lived through accidents, long years of cancer ….  My list includes near sinkings, a robbery at gun point, lost in a blizzard and more, but I remember only one time I knew I would die.

I think of it now because in my reading I am trailing behind Jesus in his last days before death.  There are so many places I have to stop and catch my breath, drop my head and wonder. One place where we all lay down our hands, chests heaving---a garden.  A garden, usually a source of health, food, strength, where we go in the daylight. Here for Jesus that last night, a place of darkness and torment.

Remember the words spoken from his knees in that place: “Father, if You are willing, take this cup away from Me—nevertheless, not My will, but Yours, be done.”

Can he choose? Can he really choose whether or not he will “drink this cup”? Whether he will submit to the cruelest death devised by the Romans---saved for criminals and pitifully failed rebels. Can he refuse the cup he was born to drink?

And we remember that he could not go on from there his anguish was so great. An angel appeared, not to knock the cup from his hand, but to strengthen him with enough courage to go on praying, until “his sweat became like drops of blood falling to the ground.”

What do any of us know of this, know what and how he prayed, know what he suffered? Here is the little I have tasted of choice and death.  

We were in a bush plane, a four-seater. We should not have been flying at all. No one would fly. The Coast Guard would not fly. No one could come when my 13 year old son crashed an ATV into a tree out at our remote fishcamp island. I found him lying writhing on the ground, his face abraded and bleeding, a hole near his eye, his nose broken, maybe his leg broken. For more than an hour all of us soothed him through our own tears, praying for him, singing to him, trying to splint his leg, trying to keep him conscious while Duncan radioed for help over and over. Answers finally came. No one could medevac him. No one could risk their lives. Nothing had flown or moved for the last three days, blinded, paralyzed by this deadly fog.  And now---would my son survive? I cannot describe to you the anguish I felt.

But one man came. Dean Andrews heard the emergency call, put his own float plane in the water and flew an hour and a half around the shoreline of Kodiak Island---hugging the sharp mountains that lined the ocean edge, which were both his beacon and his threat. He landed on our beach, a visible answer to our wrenching prayers. 

Then, who would go on the plane with Noah? I would not leave him. And because I was still nursing my youngest, 6 months old, I took him too in a carrier.  We strapped my son to a door to protect his neck and back, and eased him into the rear of the plane, the seats removed. I knelt on the floor of the plane beside him, the baby beside me.  I could see nothing out the small pane windows but white, as dense as wool; the pilot could see little more. 

Ten minutes later, while I was trying to keep my son conscious, the plane jerked, then pulled up hard, banking a desperate right angle, flattening me to the floor. I knew immediately----a mountain. We’re going to hit a mountain. 

I tried to reach out a protective arm to steady my youngest in his infant seat, another arm over my other son, my teeth clenched as gravity pulled its train from my head through my knees, and I knew this was it. Three of us from our family gone in an instant. When will we hit? When will it be over? Just a few more seconds . …  And in those seconds I had a choice. I could accede to what was about to happen. I could agree to it and submit to it---or I could fight and resist. I did not say the words that Jesus spoke in his agony---but I felt them. I made my choice between clenched teeth and eyes squeezed shut, bracing for the impact.  I let go of my life. I said yes to whatever was chosen for me. I knew the final outcome, that the three of us we would soon be with Jesus----but I couldn’t help thinking of the others. They wouldn’t know how it happened, that at the last we were safe, going home.  I was sad that I couldn’t tell them that, but I was no longer afraid.

I imagine that when Jesus rose to his feet, he was no longer afraid. He had chosen.

We didn’t hit that mountain. And Noah recovered from his injuries.  But none of us are done with choosing. Other moments of crises will come, and we will enter a dark garden where we have just seconds to decide---or we have days and years to decide: what I want Lord, or what You want?
When those times come, how can I know, or any of us know what we will pray, and what we will choose? But with hands trembling even now, I hope that angels will be sent in that time, and that courage will be given to say Yes, Lord. I choose what You choose for me.

But I am not waiting until I think I will die. I am trying to practice this even today, now, on this ordinary every-day day.

Yes Lord. Let me choose what You choose for me.