“There was nothing he wanted to pray less than the Gethsemane prayer. But if Christ had needed to take the harder path for some better purpose, who was he to ask for an easier route?” (The Language of Sparrows
by Rachel Phifer)
The Language of Sparrows is a touching tale of the hope that arises when painful secrets are brought to light. The main character is 15-year-old Sierra, but Nick, a teacher with a heart for at-risk teens, plays a major role in her life. Nick, whose students thrive under his unconventional way of teaching, is on thin ice with the principal who demands a traditional way of teaching. He eventually gets suspended after protecting Sierra. Now he’s at a deep loss as the principal plans to ask the board to terminate him.
How could Nick give up a career that was his life and passion for 15 years? As he crouched on his knees, he struggled with the Gethsemane prayer – “Thy will be done.” In anguish of heart, he told God He could have his job. “My hands are empty,” he cried as he reached out his hands as if Jesus needed to see how empty they were. But when he looked, all he saw were his closed fists.
Isn’t this a picture of each of us? We say the words, “Thy will be done,” but we still keep our fists tightly closed around what we love. How do we pry open our hands and empty them into the hands of an Almighty God? How do we entrust all we have into His care? How do we let go and let God?
Nick forced his hands open and groaned, “I don’t know how to let go.” He pressed his forehead to the floor and prayed over and over, “I will submit. By Your grace, I put it all in Your hands,” until his body and soul relaxed in the palms of a capable God. By grace, he submitted to God’s will, imagining putting his job, his relationship with his father, and April (who could not risk her heart to love again) into God’s hands.
Have you ever had to give up something you loved to do? Something you had a passion for? Something you felt called by God to do?
Christ Jesus gave up so much more than we will ever have to. Picture Him giving up His heavenly throne for a stinky stable to suffer in a sinful world, groveling in the garden of Gethsemane with such agony that His sweat was as great drops of blood, and begging the Father to “let this cup pass from Me.” But He submitted to His Father and a way of unspeakable, excruciating pain and suffering. Why? Because He loved us so much that He was willing to take our place. Because of His loving submission, we by grace can learn to unclench our hands and live out the Gethsemane prayer – “Father, if You are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but Yours be done.”