‘Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me. There is more than enough room in my Father’s house. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you?’ Jn 14:1-2 NLT
Happy New Year! Many of you may know that John is my favourite Gospel. A significant portion of time in these next few months are to be spent here as I prepare (with others) to lead the church on a journey of intimacy with their Father in Heaven; not just through the Father Heart School that I am preparing (or being prepared for more accurately), but also in a broader sense as we walk out into the unknown.
Later on in John 14, Jesus tells his disciples that when everything is ready, he will come and get them so that they will always be with him where he is. There are two dimensions to this; firstly, an eschatological one that promises His return in Glory at the end times, something that the disciples would never see in their lifetime. More relevant, this is a promise for us now; we can chose to live in the Father’s House, in Christ, through His Spirit in these very days. And as I woke up this morning, the first day of a new year, my sense was that this is significant for us today. The room in which we are offered a place to live is a palace of intimacy; defined not physically but relationally. 2015 is a year in which I hope to find a deeper place of this reality.
When Jean Vanier, founder of the L’Arche communities that serve the severely handicapped, ‘offering an intimate place to people who’s handicap is different to ours’ as he describes it, talks of this intimate place, he often stretches out his arm and cups his hand as if he is holding a small, wounded bird. He asks: ‘What will happen if I open my hand fully?’ We say: ‘The bird will try to flutter its wings, and it will fall and die.’ Then he asks again, ‘But what will happen if I close my hand?’ We say: “The bird will be crushed and die.’ Then he says, smiling gently.’ An intimate place is like my cupped hand, neither totally open nor totally closed. It is the space where growth can take place’.¹
What strikes me most this morning about this scripture, and Jean’s words is that as the cupped hands close, so the bird will resist in fear; and as the cupped hands open and the bird totters on the brink of disaster, his flapping not one of freedom, but again; one of fear. As the bird sits in the perfectly formed space, neither crushed nor abandoned, fear is replaced by the safety that love brings. This has brought me to reflect on how I both offer intimacy to those around me, and also the environment within which as a community we exist. I need to journey to that place of rest where I can grow, before I can cup my hand in that perfectly formed shape that relationally defines the room in which I need to remain, and offer the safety and love of the Father to those other damaged birds around me. What shape are the hands, therefore, that I offer?
¹Nouwen, H.J.M., In the House of the Lord, The Journey from Fear to Love (DLT, 1985)