John 3:16 for ME

I made a very wise, faithful new friend this week. In our very first conversation, in which I expected to discuss career choices and general professional “shop talk,” instead we discussed things much more important and impactful. We talked about God’s love, his power, and his promise. We talked about what that has meant in his life, and what it means for me as I move forward and overcome depression and anxiety. I was able to be honest and vulnerable about where I’ve been, how I’ve struggled, and how I’m working to reclaim my life.

Possibly the most moving part of our conversation, the part that I will remember many years from now, happened when my friend pulled out his leather-bound bible, well-loved and full of highlighter yellow and note scraps. He asked me to turn to John 3:16-17. I have no actual evidence, but I would guess that this is the most famous and quoted passages of the Bible, so I knew what was coming and found the page easily. At his urging, I read the two verses aloud, my voice just slightly shaky with emotion. The passage reads:

16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. (NIV)

There’s a reason that passage is so popular and meaningful for Christians. In a meager two sentences, it poetically sums up the essence of what we believe. What I was not prepared for, is that my friend next asked me to read the passage aloud again, but to change all of the broad references to “the world” to personal references to ME. When I began to read, my voice cracked and I could barely see through the tears that flooded my eyes. The altered passage reads:

16 For God so loved ME that he gave his one and only Son, that if I believe in him I shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn ME, but to save ME through him.

Goodness, just typing the first phrase makes my breath catch in my throat. The passage is still true and familiar, but all the more beautiful when it is changed to remind me that my personal savior died for me (and for you). God’s salvation is for the world, but it is also personal to each one of us who chooses to accept it.

Repeat the altered verse to yourself, think about its meaning, and try not to get choked up with gratitude. I dare you.

Getting What We Need

Despite Simon and Garfunkel‘s lyrics’ getting stuck in my head on a regular basis, and despite my best efforts not to need anyone, I am neither a rock nor an island. That is the unfortunately tardy realization I’ve had over the course of the past year. For all of my life, I have held everything inside: emotions, disappointments, failures, anxieties, insecurities. I have suppressed feelings and avoided finding my true self. I have given almost no thought to who I am, what I want, what I like, what I can’t stand, and most importantly, what I need. As a result, a lot of imploding has happened since last January. It was a long time coming, and it continues to be painful every day.

But a glorious thing happened when I admitted, first to myself, that I am not a rock. I am penetrable, I am vulnerable, and I am broken. I began, finally, to get what I need. Denying my needs for companionship, reassurance, affirmation, and support has made me weak. It took a long time and a perfect storm of circumstances to bring me to my knees, to finally break me down completely enough to force me to open myself up to change. Many like me, including some in my family, will go an entire lifetime without ever recognizing that they are missing the connections they need. We all need to be connected to God, to others, and to our true selves. It may sound crazy, but I am so thankful to have been so deeply broken at the relatively young age of 34. Barring some unexpected death knell, I have time, to get it right, to find what I want, to build sustaining relationships, to live the way God wants me to live from this point on.

Now, having reached the nadir of my struggle, I have begun to climb up slowly. And from the moment I began to accept my vulnerability and share it with someone I trust, I have seen that God is providing what I need to keep climbing. He is helping me widen the circle of people who take my hand and pull me forward. He helps me understand and accept my vulnerability so that I can move beyond the things that have made me weak. And He provides assurances that I will continue to have what I need to complete my journey. I am finally getting what I need, and it feels warm and comforting and I am thankful.