Academic “hell week” occurs the last week of the semester. Christian “Holy Week” occurs the week before Easter.
This year they coincided.
My last day of seminary, my last class, my last worship service, my last free lunch, my last time writing course evaluations…
My last opportunity to sit around the table with my Bible study with some of my seminary girlfriends, drinking wine, breaking (garlic) bread, sharing in lasagna, salad, and cookies. My last night of sharing prayer requests and this time—miraculously—not tearing up, although we certainly have done our share of that over the past three years.
I was thinking about Jesus, and the “last supper” and the good-byes that must have been taking place. Everyone knew that something big would happen, something transformative, after three years of eating and walking and talking and sleeping and feasting and crying and worrying and learning and laughing. But how do you respond when you are faced with a future that you don’t know? Do you get tired and want to retreat into the only safe space: sleep? Do you spin your wheels frantically trying to do more, to take advantage of every opportunity to do, do, do, do, do? Do you get testy and judgmental, taking out your moods on others while at the same time denying that? Do you decide to lavishly spend everything you have on a gift, a trip, a way to mark the occasion? Do you count the coins and weigh the costs—which are more important, money or relationships, and never know the answer?
It is terribly presumptuous to compare my life, my “lasts,” with Jesus’. I don’t think that our future graduation and separation and vocations will be equivalent to a journey to Gethsemane… although as disciples we, too, must be prepared to take up our cross and follow. But I have found myself—and my friends—acting in ways that mirror Jesus’ disciples: falling asleep, getting confused, protesting the change, denying its reality, desiring to feast, anointing lavishly, judging those who do such conspicuous consumption, and worrying about money & how we’ll make our small budget stretch through the next few months…
The good news is that my Orthodox friends this semester have taught me that “the last supper” is a Protestant misnomer. This was not the last time that the disciples ate with Jesus. He ate with them on the beach and on the road. He has provided a table for us throughout history. And He has set a feast for us in a heavenly banquet. Jesus wants to be at table with his friends.
We, too, are not at “the last.” There is more that awaits us. And until then we savor the time that we have: we wash each other’s sandals and anoint our heads with water, and somewhere in the pain there is a place that starts to heal.*
*lyrics by Dorie Ellzey Blesoff, “We’re Traveling on a Road We’ve Never Seen Before”