The mind is weak, but the body is willing
There’s a story in the Bible from the night in the garden before Jesus is crucified. It’s late and his arrest is upon him, and so he goes off to pray, asking his disciples to pray and keep watch for soldiers. He’s gone for an hour, and when he comes back, the disciples are fast asleep. He wakes them up, but they fall asleep two more times.
His response is a line that is perhaps embedded in billions of minds throughout the world: the mind is willing, but the flesh is weak.
I grew up thinking about this idea often. When studying for exams, when competing in wrestling tournaments, when trying to be a better person. I felt inspired, compelled, even confident of success, and yet I so often came up short. The mind was willing, but the flesh was weak.
And yet, as the world prepared to welcome in a month of fasting at the onset of Ramadan last month, this confidence was no where to be found. Instead, I was anxious, worried about the solitude of the month, the 15+ hours each day without food and water, the disruption in sleep patterns for the 330am fast commencement, spending my first full Ramadan in the Pakistan heat.
Even the mind lacked the willingness or enthusiasm of old.
And yet now, at the end of a mostly successful month of fasting, it seems that the mind was weak, but the body was willing. That the body is capable of more than we realize. And that maybe when we take leaps of faith, especially in the face of doubt, we might find (receive) strength from unexpected sources.
This is as surprising to me as it is encouraging. And also challenging. Challenging because how many things are there that we’ve thought about but decided we can’t manage? That project you’ve always wanted to start. The new thing you’ve wanted to learn/master. The venture you want to scale up.
What if, instead of abandoning these things, we pursued them instead, with a faith or even hope that they might work out? What if we found out that even though the mind is weak, the body is willing. That we can achieve more than we ever thought possible. What might the world look like then?