Our Guest for today’s blog is Elise Booz. Elise has been an active member of Drawing Near to God Ministry for many years. She and her family are members of St. Andrew’s Church, Park Circle where she is also the worship leader.
And while he was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he was reclining at table, a woman came with an alabaster flask of ointment of pure nard, very costly, and she broke the flask and poured it over his head. There were some who said to themselves indignantly, “Why was the ointment wasted like that? For this ointment could have been sold for more than three hundred denarii and given to the poor.” And they scolded her. But Jesus said, “Leave her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. For you always have the poor with you, and whenever you want, you can do good for them. But you will not always have me. She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for burial. And truly, I say to you, wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told l in memory of her.” Mark 14:3-9
Maybe you’ve read this story before. Maybe you’ve heard this passage of scripture unpacked by a preacher. He or she might have focused on the woman’s gesture of extravagant generosity, and called you to do the same. He or she might have picked apart the value of the denarius, and how bottles of nard were stored, used and worn. I’ve heard a sermon or two on this passage.
Recently, though, God has taken me somewhere else with this scripture. I can’t stop thinking about it. In fact, it’s changed the way I’m looking at scripture these days. Maybe it’ll spark something new in you, too.
As a young Christian I was taught to read scripture, and apply it to my life. I can’t just open the Bible, read the words on the page, close the Bible, and check “READ BIBLE,” off of my to-do list. I need to ponder its meaning, consider my life, and see how the Holy Spirit might be inviting
me to think, pray and act. Sometimes, I’ll insert myself in a passage of scripture. The other day, I inserted myself in Mark 14. I picture him, Jesus of Nazareth, and I picture me, the woman. I’d heard Him preach to the crowds. I watched, amazed, as He healed the sick. And now here He is, relaxing at the dinner table. He’s just eating now, but even so, his presence is magnetic, warm, disarming. I’ve come to bless him. I feel the eyes of the other dinner guests on me. I feel their judgement, but I know what I have to do. I remove my bottle of perfume from around my neck and break it open. The scent fills the room…
Suddenly, God nudges me, and gently presses: Look again. Who are you in this story? I’m shaken out of my daydream. ‘What do you mean, Lord? The woman, of course I’m the woman! Aside from Jesus, she’s the hero of the story! She’s selfless, and sacrificial, and bold, and loving! Her beautiful, radical act will be remembered forever, that’s what Jesus said! I want to be remembered! I want to be the hero! I’m the woman!’
And God nudges me again, and gently presses: No, really, look again. Who are you in this story?
Today my daughter wanted to play all day. I told her I had to clean the house. Not because I really needed to clean, but because I didn’t want to play. I’m not as generous and loving as I want to be.
Yesterday, a woman at the grocery store and I got to talking. She told me about her long journey with cancer, and how, against all odds, she’s in remission now. She shared that this grocery run was her first outing in months. I felt the Holy Spirit nudging me to offer her prayer. But I didn’t want her to think me strange, so I offered a feeble, “I’m glad you’re feeling better.” I’m not as bold as I want to be.
Someone achieves a goal, is praised for an accomplishment, is the center of attention for a minute. I’m in the corner, rebuffed, my ego sore. And I’m thinking of ways to downplay their awesomeness.
Who am I in this story? I’m an indignant dinner guest, not the generous woman. I’m no hero. I’m the villain. And it doesn’t stop there. When I bring an honest, transparent heart I’m cast unfavorably all over scripture. I’m Orpah, not Ruth. Instead of following God, I retreat to what’s comfortable when things get hard. I’m not David facing down the terrible Goliath. I’m some unnamed soldier, cowering in the back, shaking in my armor. I’m not the cripple, dancing for joy, and telling others about Jesus. I’m the Pharisee, smug in my own self-righteousness, and angry that Jesus isn’t behaving the way I want him to. I’m no hero. Why did I ever think that I was?
What is it about me that wants to put myself at the center of every scripture narrative? Why do I default to thinking that I’m always right? Always good? Why is my perspective always the central one? Again, another God nudge. Thanks, Lord. Things are getting a little dark here.
You’re no hero. I’m ALWAYS the hero.
God is always the hero.
God alone is perfectly good.
God alone is constantly loving.
God alone sits at the center of scripture.
Thank heaven that my relationship with God doesn’t hinge on me being good, or brave, or heroic. I’m not the shiny center of a godly story. I’m not the center of the story at all. He is. I do want to reflect God more. I pray that my life will mirror the heroes of scripture with each passing day. But if I’m more loving, more patient, more selfless tomorrow, it’s the power of the living God at work in me, allowing me to do so. And as I continue to put Him at the center, I know that’s what will happen.
God, thank you, for your gentle nudges. Thank you for your Word. Help us take honest stock of ourselves. Help us not to inflate, and centralize ourselves to a place that only You belong. We are your children, flawed and faulty, but dearly loved and renewed by the power of Your Holy Spirit.
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