Well, here we are on Tuesday of Holy Week. The plan had been to blog every day on the gospel according to T. Swift. That hasn’t happened. But I have often said to those who are struggling with imperfection that anything worth doing is worth doing poorly. So here we go.
Some Greeks were among those who had come up to worship at the festival. They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and made a request: “Sir, we want to see Jesus.” Philip told Andrew, and Andrew and Philip told Jesus.
Jesus replied, “The time has come for the Human One to be glorified. I assure you that unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it can only be a single seed. But if it dies, it bears much fruit. Those who love their lives will lose them, and those who hate their lives in this world will keep them forever. Whoever serves me must follow me. Wherever I am, there my servant will also be. My Father will honor whoever serves me.”John 12:20-26
My assumption is that anywhere we see “Greeks” in the gospels, we should read “cool kids.” Not necessarily jocks, but definitely definitely dudes with aviator glasses who know whether or not to pop the collars on their polo shirts this spring. They are always at the party, but they’re never appear to be wasted. They always make good grades, but they never appear to study. They might not get in to Vanderbilt, but they’ll definitely get in to Rhodes. They definitely go to SXSW (although they call it “South By”).
And this year’s big thing at the Festival is an indie guy from Galilee named Jesus. There is a lot of buzz about him on the street. When the Greeks get home, they want to be able to say that they saw Jesus. Their boy Philip has the hook-up, so they text him.
I don’t know what the Greeks expected when they got to see Jesus, but it probably was not him saying, “You have to die.” That’s definitely not cool. What’s cool is to live without ever appearing to struggle, to be fit without ever going to the gym. If I’m right about the Greeks, they would hate anything that looked like it took effort. But the truth is that it all takes effort. The reason they call it the daily grind is because it can be like that.
Life takes work, and even then it does not always work out. We can get tired and frustrated, or we can, like the Greeks, pretend that we are too smart and good looking for it all. If we stay in that place, however, we’re bound to get frustrated. Sooner or later we can wind up in a place where we hate all the things that make life difficult and hate the things about ourselves that contribute to the problem. Our lives either become an endless game of whack-a-mole with these perceived defects or a weak resignation to the evils we deplore.
Jesus offers another possibility. Maybe everything is compost. Perhaps that mistake you made, that heart you broke, can nourish the flowering of a new way of being. At the very least, walking through the hardship gives us the opportunity to turn to the next person who is going through it and say, with integrity, “I’ve been there. I’m still here. You will be too.” Maybe those tiny seeds of love that seemed to disappear under the detritus of our days can still sprout into new life, despite ourselves.
How do we love that? How do we express gratitude for that? The image Taylor offers, of two people finding joy in their relationship, offers us one possibility. We can find gratitude in the fact that we are able to be in relationship not despite of what has gone before but because it has provided us with deeper understanding, more empathy, and greater presence. Nothing is wasted in this scenario. Anything can be transformed if we are willing to walk with the one who gives new life.