Maundy Thursday & Gestalt Dream Theory
Several years ago, I became interested in dream analysis. One of the most intriguing theories to me was the Gestalt method from Psychotherapist Fritz Perls. In this theory, it’s not so much that you interpret the dream, but you uncover things hidden. You do this by looking at every piece of the dream as if it were a part of yourself.
So, I wonder, what if we did that with Maundy Thursday?
Maundy Thursday is the day during Holy Week that we remember Christ’s last supper with his disciples and the sacrificial act of washing their feet. We remember how he served those who loved him – and one who would betray him. We picture Jesus in the garden, praying for this cup to be lifted, and puzzling at the fact that his disciples cannot stay awake for one hour.
Who am I in this narrative? I can picture myself in many ways.
I imagine myself as the betrayer sitting at the table. My Lord is passing a cup of wine and reminding his closest friends that one of them will turn him in to the authorities; one will be tempted by a handful of silver coins. Do I look down, or do I look up? Do I deny this statement? As I sit here writing, I feel the heat running through my body when Jesus speaks the truth I’ve been trying to bury.
I see myself in the garden. I am Jesus and I am his drowsy disciples. How can I be both? I know the feeling, at least on some level – not his – of being completely alone; of wondering who will join me in this task, whatever it is. I feel my own voice rise as I shout to my friends, “Could you not stay awake one hour!?” And then, I feel something else. My leaden body, glued to the ground from utter fatigue. I cannot lift my head for one more minute. Jesus, my leader, has asked me to rise – I cannot.
I even see myself in the dirty foot of a traveling disciple.
What must it have been like to be that foot? Dusty from the work of being an itinerant follower of Christ? No time to stop and attend to a hangnail or a burr under the strap of my sandal. But now this man who says he’d die for me is cupping this foot, my body, in his hands. What do I feel? Ashamed. Confused. And yet, completely, unabashedly, loved.
And now he’s getting up. “Do as I have done,” he says.
I imagine that I am him. Contemplating all the power and authority entrusted to me, could I do it? Would I offer myself in this sacrificial way? Could I humble myself to serve those I love; rally them, even, to follow in this life of servanthood and compassion?
I don’t know that this exactly what Gestalt dream therapy is supposed to look like, but as I walked through each piece of Maundy Thursday, I understood it more – I felt the weight of it; and the gift.
Maundy comes from the word “Mandatum” which means mandate or “command.” While not all of us will gather in churches today to scrub each other’s feet, we can remember that this is a day about servanthood; and it began with Jesus setting an example. After these acts of service, Jesus says, “Here’s my commandment – that you love one another.” (John 13) This commandment is not because he wanted to just give them a task to busy their hands, but because love makes people do radical things for one another – and that’s what Jesus’ love is like.
I can see that now, since walking through the story thoroughly like this, as if it were a dream. How about you? What do you see?
Thanks for Reading.