Tag Archives: Lent

The Importance of Agony

My sister and I were agreeing the other day that March — which supposedly comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb — continues to be one of those trying periods of every year. Because Lent always falls during this time, I half joked that all of Lent can feel like the Agony in the Garden. And then this morning she sent me an excellent article on this topic, and I started to make sense of the happenings of this past week.

Let me start with a definition, of course:

“The word agony is not just a pious term from the Rosary or other traditions; it’s a term from Scripture. In Greek they talk about Christ’s agonia. We know what agony means in English, but in Greek, at the time of Jesus, it was also a technical term for what athletes did warming up for the Olympic Games. During that warm-up, the Greek athletes would produce a certain sweat which would warm up their muscles and ready them for coming combat. That sweat, that lather, was called their agonia.

Luke is telling us that Jesus does an agonia to get ready for his passion. In essence, Luke is saying, we don’t move from being self-pampering to dying on a cross without some preparation. The Agony in the Garden is the warm-up, the readying, the agonia for the Passion that follows.”

As an athlete, this speaks to me. I don’t walk into the gym, start putting weights on the bar, and attempt my max back squat before I’ve even taken off my sweatpants. Agonia = warm-up. Check.

It goes on:

“Remember the old translation of the Our Father? In place of “and lead us not into temptation,” we used to say, “and do not put us to the test.” What is the test? We’re telling God something like, “God, in my life I know you can test me the way you tested Jesus. I know you can make me sweat blood, but cut me a little slack. Make these things a little easier for me in my life so I don’t have to taste that complete darkness.” See, though, that darkness is the test of the moral athlete, inside of our moral loneliness. It’s not the test of our physical capacity to withstand pain.

…The Passion is not about the blood and the ropes and the whipping and how much Jesus endured. It’s about something we’re meant to imitate. It’s about our moral and emotional athleticism the next time we have temptation. It’s about the test inside of love, and it happens in a garden.”

Again with this idea of athleticism… elite athletes fuel themselves well and train accordingly in order to push themselves to a physical limit and beyond. So for me this begs the question of how might I be fueling my moral and emotional strength to prepare myself for great tests. Part of that is certainly in how I take care of myself physically (healthy body, healthy mind) but also in the people I allow to be close to me and become my models. If I want to be morally and emotionally strong, then I have to surround myself with others who are also trying to “train” in the same way, or who are already strong in that way. Thankfully, I am privileged to have these relationships in my life.

What I think is incredible, as I have written previously, is that once we move through agonia to acceptance of whatever hard test we face, in the end we get to the light. Even when it seems like the light will never return or is going to take its sweet time, it does. So even while this past week has been difficult in its own way, the only path to the other side is through. Watch me pump my emotional muscles.

One Minute

I used to think that one minute was a very short period of time. It never really dawned on me how long a minute could feel until I took a public speaking course in college during my senior year. On the very first day of class, the instructor announced that each of us would have to walk up to the front and stand in front of everyone for an entire minute. Take in everyone’s eyes, make or don’t make eye contact, but stand up there in a silent room full of people. I have never been a shy person, but that was an awfully long minute. I remember feeling the vibes of tension spreading throughout the room as people contemplated the idea of surviving that one minute and worrying about when to go so they could go back to hiding in their respective seats.

In the land of fitness, one minute can also feel like an eternity. Max reps of anything in a minute can go on and on, seemingly. Mobilizing a body position in yoga or while stretching also makes me question the length of 60 seconds — does it get longer and shorter sometimes, like the length of sunlight in a day?

Last year I remember a speaker at church sharing a revelation he had while traveling. He said he had thought for most of his life that prayer was something that “needed” to last for a while, or else it didn’t count. So unless there was a good chunk of time in his day set aside for prayer time, then it just wasn’t going to happen. Finally it occurred to him that there is no rule that says prayers can’t be short and still meaningful, and he developed his own practice of one minute of prayer each day. That could look like one minute of true silence — no radio, television, or other background noise. It could be one minute of simply feeling gratitude in his heart. Maybe one minute of repeating a one-line prayer (similar to a koan for some people who meditate). Me personally? As a little girl, I used to be good at saying my prayers before bedtime in my head (“Now I lay me down to sleep…”) and on occasion I still do that. But I was intrigued by this concept of one minute of prayer and tried it out last year, especially when Husband and I were living apart and the days seemed long. Every afternoon, coming home from work, I would wait to turn on the radio or plug in my iPod in the car to spend a minute in silence. Usually when I checked the clock, one minute had turned into three to five minutes (the length of one song, of course), and I was surprised to find that I started to enjoy the silence more.

I know that it is worth one minute out of the 1440 minutes in a day to spend one minute in prayer. One minute to focus my energy on a relationship to my faith that can be so very easy to neglect. Because one of the markers of Lent is prayer, there is no time like the present to renew my commitment to one minute of prayer each day and see where it might lead me.