That Awkward Lady at Church
I hate hate hate crying in front of people. I don’t like drawing attention to myself for anything other than being cute, funny, wise or clever! When I’m emotional, I’d prefer no one see. I don’t readily share my deep emotional outbreaks with people… Except there’s this place known as church and occasionally, I don't keep my normal composure and proper demeanor... ;-)
I have actually hidden in the bathroom on more than one occasion so that people wouldn’t see my emotion-laden outbursts at church. I get it. Me crying next to you in the service is super awkward. It’s weird. Me getting way too into the worship music is also weird. It makes people uncomfortable. It seems like I’m fake or trying to draw attention to myself. I need to lock that sh*# down…(Walking Dead... Anyone?!) but there are times when I just can’t help it…
You see, people who know me fairly well* say things to me like “I can’t imagine you ever getting mad at anyone.” “How’d you raise such great sons?” or “You seem so happy all the time.” And I have to laugh because I know what I’m like without Jesus in my life.
I can totally imagine me getting extremely and unreasonably mad at plenty of people (it’s technically called memory). In my nature, I’m probably the most bitter, angry, person on the planet. Like, on my own, I’m so bitter and hateful that I can still see the face of the little girl that made fun of my sundress in 2nd grade** and if it weren’t for Jesus, I’d outright still hate her...and smack her little snotty face for making fun of the dress my mom made! (LOL!!!)
And, I know that I did raise amazing young men. I also know that I sat at a pool one day and watched my babysitter playing with them and seriously considered running away. It scared me and I begged God to make me a better person, but on my own, I’d have left that day.
I know I laugh and joke around more than any normal adult should, but I also remember being on the bathroom floor wanting to die and calling out to God for some hope to cling to and how he freed me from the condemnation I was feeling from others. I know that on my own, I fluctuate between anxiety and depression. I wake up most mornings and start with the simple prayer, “God help me see the good in today because I don’t want to get out of bed!”
So, yeah, sometimes I get emotional. Sometimes, it’s embarrassing to be sitting around me. Sometimes you think I’m super weird…and I wish I had a better way to express myself so you could see how crazy-awesome Jesus is. I wish you could see a compare and contrast of the me without him and me with him and you'd be in awe. But it just comes out in tears and it's awkward for us all... ;-)
In today’s story, Jesus returns to the home of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus (who I assume has had a bath and no longer stinketh!) They host a dinner for Jesus and his followers. Lazarus is sitting at the table eating and Martha is serving.
Mary comes out and completely humiliates herself in front of everyone! She pulls out some over the top expensive pure nard perfume, which was a big deal back then and pours it on Jesus’ feet. It was extremely fragrant and filled the whole house with this strong smell. So, yeah, everyone was looking at Mary.
Normally, ancient people poured perfume on someone’s head but Mary poured this perfume on Jesus’ feet. I suspect that she didn’t really want all eyes on her. She could have ceremonially poured perfume on Jesus’ head and everyone would have stopped to watch. As I imagine it’s hard to keep talking while someone is anointing your head with nard….
Instead, she humbled herself and took on the role of the lowest servant by attending to Jesus’ feet. Then she went further and took down her hair and wiped his feet with it. It was a pretty crazy thing to do. Women didn’t take their hair down in public back in ancient times. It was a beautiful act of extreme worship that probably made all of the guests feel uncomfortable and awkward.
I mean she took on the role of the lowest of servants, she let her down and she had foot dirt in her hair, how were the guests supposed to act now?
What would even motivate such an extreme act of devotion and worship. Why the drama and awkward display? Why such an extravagant gift?
Well, remember chapter 11?
The Bible doesn’t tell us a lot about Mary and Martha. They were adults living with their brother. In ancient times, single women did not fare too well alone. They were basically property. They were not really considered worthy of teaching beyond the skills needed to run a household or estate. Jewish law provided a great deal of protection for women, but they were still very dependent on men.
We don’t really know Mary and Martha’s story of why they were living with their brother. We know that it wasn’t because everything had worked out great for them. So, when Lazarus died earlier, they had lost a lot more than just a beloved brother.
Mary’s act of extreme worship and devotion is the act of a woman who could clearly imagine what her life would have looked like without Jesus.
The next day, was Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. I’ve been told that the nard was such a strong perfume that the smell would have stayed on Jesus for days and the crowds would have recognized the scent. It was the scent of someone who had been anointed. There were two reasons for anointing: declaring a king or preparing a body for burial. Mary’s extreme worship did both.
Take some time today to focus on how much God loves you! Let him work in your life… and when he does, don’t be afraid to be extremely grateful!
P.S. I think this post makes me sound a little more super holy than I am. Please read my next post about me being less super religious...
*(People who know me very well never say stuff like this)
**(I know this is a lame example, but I don't really want to share my worse stories, so bite me...)