Lent 4: Take my heart...

John 16:25-33

25 “Though I have been speaking figuratively, a time is coming when I will no longer use this kind of language but will tell you plainly about my Father. 26 In that day you will ask in my name. I am not saying that I will ask the Father on your behalf. 27 No, the Father himself loves you because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God. 28 I came from the Father and entered the world; now I am leaving the world and going back to the Father.”

29 Then Jesus’ disciples said, “Now you are speaking clearly and without figures of speech. 30 Now we can see that you know all things and that you do not even need to have anyone ask you questions. This makes us believe that you came from God.”

31 “Do you now believe?” Jesus replied. 32 “A time is coming and in fact has come when you will be scattered, each to your own home. You will leave me all alone. Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me.

33 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

There are times in seminary where the conversations we have, the topics of which we speak, and the language we use are so academic that anyone else listening in would be lost. We wrestle with hard questions. We deal with reality as we see it. We come from different contexts and backgrounds, but in seminary, none of us is able to escape the harshness of the world outside our walls. We find ourselves using metaphors, analogies, and allegories to make sense of God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and countless other subjects, mostly because there's no real way to understand any of it, not concretely at least.

I've been a part of two denominations that, on paper and often in practice, profess that myself and other same-gender-loving people are living stunted lives, that we've bought into a lie told to us by the world and the one who rules it—two denominations that see us as sinful and broken to a worse degree than our heterosexual counterparts. Needless to say, this is heartbreaking. That's where my heart is right now—broken.

In my post four days ago, I talked about trying to sit still and not run from God. Four days in and I'm beginning to see both how horrifying this endeavor is and how necessary it is. I want to run, but I need to stay. I had a professor this week who said that when we pull away from community, we withhold from ourselves the gifts and graces that others have to offer us, and we withhold from them the gifts and graces that they need us to offer them. As soon as I heard her words, I felt cut to the quick. God was telling me to stay and not run. God was saying that, eventually, I would need to go back to community.

Yesterday and today I've spent mostly doing homework, diving into books and marking up the points that stuck out to me. I'm taking a class on Revelation that asks me to read the biblical text before I even go near the commentary, and so I've been doing just that, only I've been reading aloud. I've been afraid of scripture for a long time. Many friends speak of finding comfort in the pages of the canon. In my experience, I've mostly felt condemned. Not always, but often.

And then I come across a passage like the one recounted above. I've always loved the Gospel of John. His words and his experience of Jesus have always resonated within me more than the other gospel writers, more than any other biblical author at all, in fact. When I first read this passage—at least the first time I remember reading it and having it mean something to me—I was in high school, dealing with the reality of both my sexuality and my struggle with chronic depression. I remember placing myself in the scene. I remember how it felt.

The kicker for me comes in v.33. While the NRSV says, "Take courage," the NIV's translation of "Take heart" feels more sincere. I'm not saying I don't care about the original language, but for me, having Jesus look at me, someone who struggles to love himself, who wants desperately to make sense of the world around him, and who hopes to leave this world having made it better than it was when he entered, Jesus' words here cut through my walls, boundaries, through my cynicism and my pain, and speak directly to my spirit.

He's not just saying, "Take heart." He's saying, "Take my heart." He's offering me his storehouse of love, courage, tenacity, and will. He's saying that I don't have to fight any fight alone. He's saying I don't have to pretend to be fine when I'm not. His words here offer more than the eschatological hope that, in the end, He will make all things new. He's saying, "Take what you need from me." This might not be the most accurate exegesis on my part, but then again, this isn't an academic paper. This is me sitting down with a passage that tells me someday, my brokenness will be gone. Someday, I won't have to fight anymore. Someday, the world will be made into a new thing—the kind of new thing for which only the Spirit of God can receive credit.

I don't know where you're at today. I don't know what you believe, how you make sense of the world, how you understand God. Maybe today was a good day for you. Maybe it wasn't. Whatever the case may be, take heart... take my heart if you need it. Better yet, take hold of the heart of the one who made you to love you. Something new is coming... something better...