Runaway Bunny Love
by Austen Hartke
“Where can I go from your spirit?
Or where can I flee from your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, you are there;
if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there.
If I take the wings of the morning
and settle at the farthest limits of the sea,
even there your hand shall lead me,
and your right hand shall hold me fast.
If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me,
and the light around me become night,”
even the darkness is not dark to you;
the night is as bright as the day,
for darkness is as light to you.”
-Psalm 139:7-12 (NRSV)
When you were little, did you ever read the story of the runaway bunny? It’s all about this baby rabbit who decides to run away from home. When he tells his mother, she says “If you run away, I will run after you.” The baby bunny says, “If you run after me I will become a flower,” and the mother bunny says, “Then I will become a gardener.” The baby bunny says he will become a bird, and the mother bunny says then she will become a tree that the bird can always come home to. No matter what the baby bunny does, or where he goes, his mother finds a way to be there—sometimes in the background, and sometimes right up close.
When I read this part of Psalm 139, all I can think about is how God is just like that mother bunny. If we ascend to heaven, God is there. If we go down into whatever the opposite of heaven is (there’s just a bit of debate about that!), then God is there too. If we fly as far away from God as we think we can get—guess what? God’s still there, and God’s waiting for us.
I know a lot of LGBTQ+ Christians who worry about whether God can still love them if they’re gay, or bisexual, or transgender, or asexual, and I always love to point them to these verses. God can do whatever God wants, and what God wants to do is love you! Of course, sometimes we feel like God is a long, long way away. We feel this urge to get closer to God, and that urge is good. But I think it’s important to recognize that God hasn’t gone anywhere, and really, neither have we. When God feels far away, that’s a good time to realize that we’ve been acting like the baby bunny, pretending to be what we’re not, and trying to get away from a love that’s always nearby.
So open up your eyes, remember that God loves you for who you are and not for what you could be, and see if you can find the ways the Spirit is following you!
For more thoughts on this topic, check out the Transgender & Christian video "When God Feels Far Away.” (Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TXULQ13CgS8&list=PLwWfCs7vnwdC1wbIAmH3_kIm0fE7oN9tE&index=75)
About The Author
Austen Hartke is the creator of the YouTube series “Transgender and Christian,” which seeks to understand, interpret, and share parts of the Bible that relate to gender identity and the lives of transgender individuals. Austen is a graduate of Luther Seminary’s Master of Arts program in Old Testament/Hebrew Bible Studies, and is the winner of the 2014 John Milton Prize in Old Testament Writing from the same institution. He has spoken at conferences all over the country, including The Reformation Project Conference in Atlanta, the Gay Christian Network Conferences in Houston and in Pittsburg, and the 2016 Philadelphia Transgender Health Conference. Currently Austen lives in St. Paul, Minnesota, where he is working on a collection of biblical and modern narratives from gender-non-conforming people of faith, to be published with Westminster John Knox Press in Spring of 2018. As a transgender person of faith, his greatest passion is helping other trans and gender-non-conforming people see themselves in scripture.