As the disciples went with Jesus to the Garden of Gethsemane, they found themselves in a unique place of “holding space” with Jesus. This garden would be his last place of rest and reflection before his arrest, trial, and crucifixion. You could hear the pain in his words: “I am deeply grieved, even to death; remain here, and stay awake with me.”
Being tasked simply with staying awake, the disciples fell asleep anyway. Even after Jesus woke them and asked them to stay awake again, they couldn’t keep their eyes open.
While we may not be asked to sit with Jesus in that space, we will be asked at some point in our lives (maybe many times in our lives) to sit with someone who is sick, living in pain, or dying. “Holding space” is a sacred calling, but it’s not an easy calling. Rather than do what the disciples did, let us open ourselves to some alternatives: read about one woman’s experience of helping her mother die, while a palliative care nurse held space for her and her siblings.
As we approach the passion narratives of Jesus this Holy Week, let us ourselves practice “holding space” with Jesus. It means that our usual ideas of fixing and problem-solving (and inadvertently overwhelming and shaming) simply won’t help. Instead, we are called to offer deep compassion. As Jesus lived, died, and rose as an act of compassion for us, so we “hold space” as an act of compassion for the people God loves.