Lent Devotions: Internal exile

Design by Doug Puller/Bread for the World.

Editor’s note: This Lent season, Bread Blog is running a series of devotionals written by staff, alumni, and friends of the San Francisco Theological Seminary, which is affiliated with the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).  

Rev. Terra Pennington   

John 6:66-71  

There was grumbling. They grumbled and left. How did Jesus feel in his humanity? Did the rejection sting?

No one fully knew Jesus. Did Jesus live in internal exile? No one else was like him — no one around to say, “I get it. This fully human/fully divine thing, it’s all kinds of complicated.”

I recently spent time feeling “internally exiled,” away from what was familiar and doing work that was different from what others were doing. I felt that the best parts of me were often hard to be seen. I had grumblers.

I also soon discovered a community that would come from the most surprising places. Colleagues provided a listening ear and invitations to dinner. A pastor tackled a broken system with me. 

The least expected place was with a community of people who were refugees. A wise sage asked me if I felt sad. I said I feel far from everything right now. Then, realizing how much privilege I had (home was just a plane ticket away, and English was my first language), I immediately apologized. I will be fine. Then the man looked at me and said, “We are your home.” I was in the midst of the most vulnerable in our society. They embraced me with all my privilege anyway.

The third day came — the women running back, the others outracing each other to get there first. Jesus had moved through internal exile via community to freedom. I have moved from my own internal exile, via finding communities in different places, and through that, on to freedom.

Internal exile can be excruciating. Especially when we cannot find a community where we fit. I believe that God suffers with us. We are not alone. The Holy Spirit continues to do her work, moving us from exile to community to freedom.

Rev. Terra Pennington earned a Master of Divinity in 2013 from San Francisco Theological Seminary.

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