Love isn’t always smiling

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There came a point in my life where I realized that being around people wasn’t about me. I didn’t need to overthink things. I didn’t need to be afraid about what people might be thinking about me. I didn’t need to hide inside my comfy turtle shell and watch the world pass me by.

Praise the Lord! The whole point of social interactions isn’t about me. I’m not the center of the world. You’re not either. We can forget about all the craziness of what’s going on in people’s minds and focus on the point of living.

Because the whole point of being in community with others is simply to reflect the love of God. That’s the beauty of the gospel. It gives us the Spirit of Christ that creates restoration, peace, and sweet fellowship among people. It gives us a sacrificial type of love that breaks barriers and searches for people’s needs, lifting up the broken and humbling the proud in the gentlest of ways.

Love God. Love people. It really is that simple.

But recently a question was hanging in my head that I didn’t know what to do with: What’s the difference between love and people-pleasing?

Because when we set out to love people on our own strength, often people-pleasing takes control instead of true, Christ-like love. A genuine desire to love people in order to bring glory to God can all too easily turn into a desire to please the world. To grant the world’s wishes, not meet their needs.

But is that true love?

“Love is patient, love is kind… It is not self-seeking.” – 1 Corinthians 13:4-5

It really does seem all sweet and dandy when you please others, and they in turn please you back. But is that ultimately seeking for the good of your own self?

What is true love? Is it always smiling? Always pleasing? Always making sure you feel good?

Sometimes, maybe? But not all the time? How are we to define which circumstances demand which responses? It gets too complicated when you look at things that way.

Instead, we can find true love by looking at God. He Himself is Love for us, manifested in His Son, a human we can touch and see. Jesus Christ demonstrated love when He washed His disciples dirty feet, performing the job of a servant. His ultimate act of love was when He sacrificed Himself for us on the cross for our eternal salvation.

Our Savior came to serve us sacrificially, but when it came to people failing to understand the truth, He did not serve their own desires and sacrifice His own. He told them outright that they were wrong and He was right. He loved people too much to let them go astray into false beliefs.

Jesus demonstrated love when He reprimanded His disciples for falling asleep instead of staying awake at the Garden of Gethsemane, and when He rebuked His disciples for assuming that they could call fire down from heaven to destroy a Samaritan village (Luke 9:52-56).

God both serves us sacrificially and disciplines us gently because He loves us.

“And have you completely forgotten this word of encouragement that addresses you as a father addresses his son? It says, ‘My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.’ Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father?” – Hebrews 12:5-7

The definition of God’s love isn’t good feelings. It’s patience. Kindness. Sacrifice. Discipline. It’s meeting our deepest needs, not our surface-level wishes. And sometimes God is gracious to grant our wishes, but only with the intention of pointing us back to Him, the Giver of good gifts. Because, ultimately, love is all about bringing us closer into relationship with the God who is Himself the only source of true love.

“Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” – 1 John 4:8 

The way to get to know Love is by getting to know Jesus, who is God in human form. And the best way to love someone is to point them to Jesus and to help them get to know Him. He alone is what we need. He alone brings us into a secure rest in God’s love and gives us the means to love other people.

We can’t love people on our own strength without being self-seeking and people-pleasing. We need to humble ourselves before God and ask for His strength in order to love selflessly.

So, pray with me for this kind of love that only comes from God. The kind of love that casts out fear. That brings people out of hiding and into His wonderful light. The kind of love that sometimes smiles tenderly, sometimes cries with us, and sometimes disciplines us, but is always right there, giving you everything you need (Phil. 4:19). Put your faith in that kind of love, because He exists, in the form of Jesus Christ.

And together we can learn to love people in a deep way that doesn’t merely cheer them up, but instead directs their affections to the true Author of life and love.

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The One Who Surpasses

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(Photo from Pinterest)

I’ve been thinking a lot. I’ve been thinking and realizing that I made a mistake.

It’s the most awful feeling when you don’t want to admit you made a mistake but you can’t deny it.

Anyhow this post is not about my mistake, it’s about what God does with mistakes, and it’s about what God does through us to help us avoid mistakes.

Because mistakes are ugly. And they make you distant from God. Restless. Confused.

Just like you, I don’t want to make mistakes. But my desires sometimes become overwhelming and I convince myself that there is a good reason to make this decision, when in reality I feel like I can’t resist the temptation.

But that’s a lie. Kick it in the face; fight it to its death—Jesus has WON.

He has literally grabbed the devil and trampled him over his feet. Desire, temptation, and fleeting pleasures don’t have to rule over us. God is wise, and so we need to be, too.

“Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” — James 4:7 (ESV)

Before you make a decision, ask yourself: Am I fully satisfied in Christ, or am I making this decision because I am restless and longing for something more to fill the hole inside me?

This really puts things into perspective. Rejoicing in the fact that HE HAS WON, and we have hope in heaven, and He cares about every detail of our lives—all this overshadows our finicky desires.

You are more precious to Him than many sparrows, so don’t be discouraged about where you are; He has you where you are for a reason.

Don’t move unless He tells you to—that is to say, treat every action as an act of worship!

You are a living sacrifice to God and you do not deserve to be thrown aside to unrighteous people who care nothing for your pure heart.

“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” — Romans 12:1 (ESV)

Other questions to ask yourself: Is what I am doing glorifying God? Is what I am doing worth doing in light of eternity? If I had to pay 100 dollars to do this action, would I do it for the sake of glorifying God?

But thank our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ that when we do make mistakes, He is there! His mercies are new every morning. Don’t doubt for a second that He wants to continue the relationship with you no matter what you’ve done. Repent genuinely, and be free in Christ. Walk in the Spirit joyfully knowing God surpasses all sin and shame.

“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.” — Romans 8:1-2 (ESV)

Just some thoughts that were on my heart to share. I would love to continue the conversation with you. God cares about you, and you matter to Him.

If He matters to you, you care about your decisions.

The Gospel, The Light: 6 Things God Has Done For Humanity

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(Photo by Samantha Lynch on Unsplash)

I blind myself to the truth, do you? Am I the only one who runs from the Light, preferring the safety of darkness? 

When the Light pierces through the darkness, it hurts. It hurts when I see I’ve been trying to fill the void inside me with my passions, dreams, ego, or self-pity. It hurts to see that me, you, and the whole human race sin every day without realizing it.

Or maybe we do realize our weakness, but we’re too afraid to do anything about it.

Woe to those who go to great depths
to hide their plans from the Lord,
who do their work in darkness and think,
“Who sees us? Who will know?” – Isaiah 29:15

Without this Light, I feel so empty. I’m in constant pain, letting insecurity rule and darkness overshadow any good that’s left in me.

I’m blind to my own weakness.

Why are we like this? It’s my fault. It’s yours. It’s Adam and Eve’s fault for eating that fruit in the garden. Their sin began a chain reaction that spread to every generation of humans who have lived since.

Doubts come: Come on, I’m good enough. God wouldn’t send a nice person like me to hell. I’ve done enough good things to outweigh the bad.

But God doesn’t weigh the good versus the bad; no, He measures us up to a stick, and we have to reach the top to enter heaven—He requires us to be 100 % perfect.

And we’re not.

And God is truly sad about that: “[God] wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” (1 Timothy 2:4)

So, how did God provide a way for us to escape hell and to enter His heavenly presence, now and forever?

1. He sent a perfect man.

God sent His Son, Jesus, to live on this earth perfectly following God’s laws, like no human ever had before. He was the one person in history’s existence who actually deserved heaven.

Only God is 100% perfect all the time. And that’s exactly who Jesus was, and still is to this very day.

“The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.” – Hebrews 1:3

Jesus is the one perfect Light, the one true fulfiller of our souls. He spoke out against lies and injustice; He uplifted the outsiders in society. He was filled with deep compassion for people, healing the sick and preaching about the Kingdom of God, a place where hearts are free, a place their souls had been longing to hear about.

2. He sacrificed this man, His Only Son, for us.

What’s terribly ironic, is that the One person who deserved heaven went to hell in place of everyone else who deserved hell. Jesus was nailed to a cross to purify us from our sins, dying in our place so we wouldn’t have to eternally bleed.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.” – John 3:16-21

3. He, in the form of a man, came back to life.

But it doesn’t end at the cross. Three days later, Jesus Christ rose from the tomb, alive and well, and witnessed by hundreds of astonished people. He went up to heaven where He now sits at the right hand of the throne of God.

4. He saves us not by any goodness in ourselves, but by His amazing grace.

This is the most crucial point I have, even though it’s number four (number 4 is a good number, right? ;)) So pay attention here.

The thing is, Jesus did NOT die so we would follow rules, He died so we would place our faith in Him and come to know Him. It is only by faith in Christ that we are saved.

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.” – Ephesians 2:8-9

Christianity is NOT a religion. It is a beautiful, everlasting, soul-fulfilling relationship with Jesus Christ.

5. He shines His Light into our everyday lives.

Today, in the 21st century, Jesus offers this hope as we battle against anxiety, depression, temptations, grief, and feelings of emptiness: He is the Light.

Let those words sink in for a minute.

After Jesus left this earth, His Holy Spirit came to convict this world of sin.

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” – 1 John 1:9

Wow! What an amazing truth that is. Throughout our Christian lives, we must bring our dark deeds into God’s glorious light, so that He may completely and totally outshine this darkness within us. His forgiveness is real, and He is waiting for you to simply cry out to Him with a repentant heart.

Once we believe in Jesus’ power to overcome death and sin on the cross, the Holy Spirit illuminates through our pitch black souls and guides us into more and more victories over our sin and failures, and more and more into the love and peace of walking in His ways.

“But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.” – John 14:16

6. He fills us with joy—now and forever.

With God’s Light inside of me, I’ve found the absolute freedom of His grace. I am no longer empty. I am truly, definitely, totally forgiven, as far as the east is from the west. When I place my surrendered trust in Jesus, my heart bursts with this Light.

As Christians, we face hardship. But through it all, our joy is made complete through Christ.

You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.” – Psalm 16:11

I am free.

I am not floundering in darkness, but I am running out into the open arms of my Father, whose eyes ignite with unspeakable joy when He sees me. Without Jesus, I don’t know where I’d be. I don’t know how I’d bear the fires of this raw, miserable life.

But with Him, the sword of truth has attacked my old self. Now I am new like a polished ring, waiting like a Bride for her Groom, until the day He returns.

Please, when He comes back, don’t let it be your first time to bow.

“[Jesus], being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!
Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.” – Philippians 2:6-11

(All Scripture taken from NIV.)

 

NP2: Chapter 2 of The Healer of Istagun – Prima

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(Image from Google)

This is the second chapter of my ten-chapter fantasy novella. I will be posting a chapter every week. Click here to read Chapter 1. Hope you enjoy!

Chapter 2

Prima

I knocked at the door of the thatched roof house. Tap, tap. Ratta-tap. I waited for a moment, then knocked again.

A spindly fairy with fluttering wings opened it, her mouth immediately twisting into a tight grimace. “Gesu wants to see no one—you should get some sleep, little girl.”

I found it funny that she’d call me little, when I was a foot taller than she. Though I supposed eighteen was young compared to the hundreds of years the fairies lived.

“I’m Dahlia and I have an important request,” I said quickly, noticing the blue glass wand she held tightly in her white fist. “Can he heal a girl with the Livs?”

The fairy tapped her wand on the door frame. Tick, tick, tick. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

I grabbed her wand, trying to yank it out of her hand. “Hollis is going to die. She needs Gesu’s help.”

Tears came, whether real or pretended I could not tell. I was sorry about my sister and in a hurry all at once. Sinking to my knees, I begged the fairy to help me.

Suddenly I heard the high chatter of several fairies at the door.

“Oh my! What do we do?”

“Poor child, don’t you turn her into sawdust, Prima.”

“Cheer up, girl, Gesu is still awake; I’ll go see if he could help just one more.”

It worked. Of course it did. That was the fairies’ weakness. They gave into sympathy far too easily.

“Get along, ladies—I’ll do the work. You know you can’t be seen.” And with that the fairies’ chatter disappeared before I could ever see one of their faces.

Now Prima, the spindly fairy who had opened the door, pulled me up to my feet. Her pink lips managed a quick, prim smile. “You aren’t goin’ to cry again, are ya?”

Her light green wings beat steadily, as calm as a Spring fairy’s would. I’d never seen a Summer fairy so calm. Or maybe it was I who felt calm in her presence. I imagined the rippling of tall grass and a faint coo-coo of a dove from the woods. Suddenly conscious of myself, I glanced at the wand in her hand. Prima. She must be the soother fairy—after firing up people’s emotions first, of course.

The fairy touched my cheek with her long, slender finger. “No more tears, Dahlia,” she said.

I nodded, slowly. Maybe I should get to sleep.

Wait, what was I thinking!?

Prima lead me into the living room to Gesu, who was seated on an armchair, staring into the fireplace. When he saw me, he ushered me in to sit down on the couch.

The man was broad-shouldered, strong, yet he slouched in the leathery chair as though he was a small fairy with droopy wings. “Why have you come?” he asked, his intense, soulful eyes staring into me.

My cheeks burned. I realized all at once how foolish I’d been to come here and interrupt this man’s rest from the day’s chaos.

“My sister is dead,” I told him, “or will be if you don’t help. She’s in Spring. Is there any way we can get to her and you can heal her? She has the Livs.”

Gesu scratched his dark bristly beard. “No one can cross into another season unless it is their Time.”

I narrowed my brows but managed to level my frustration in my voice as I said, “Yes, of course, sir. But there must be some way, with your powers—”

“—his powers are for healing, Dahlia,” Prima interrupted, her pretty face contorting into an ugly scowl. “He can do nothing more, so you might as well—”

Gesu raised his hand to stop her. “You are right to say that my powers are for healing, Prima. My mission is to heal. And I will use my power to do anything that will bring about such healing.” He smiled at me. “Anything at all.”

Prima looked at him in dead silence, paled, flapping her wings slowly in the shadowy corner.

I wanted to shout at the top of my lungs, but aware of the respect due to this man, I spoke quietly: “Thank you very much, sir.”

I was speechless after that.

Gesu and Prima did not speak either, as if waiting for me to say something, but for some reason I did not know of anything I wished to say.

“Who are you, Gesu?” I said, because it needed to be said, because if it wasn’t said, I wouldn’t know what to do. Was he trustworthy?

The man lifted his eyes to mine. “It is not the time to reveal such things. I am Gesu, the healer, and that is all you need to know.”

“Of course,” I said quickly, remembering why I was here again. “Please, help me. Hollis is in Spring. Do what you must do to get her out, and to heal her before it’s too late.”

After studying me closely again, Gesu rose from his big leathery chair. “Prima, I need to talk to you alone.”

When the door to another room shut, I gazed at the pictures on the walls.

A painting hung on the wall for each stage of Gesu’s life: first as a newborn, held in the arms of a mother; then as a boy, smiling with a bouquet of flowers; then as a teenager, hard at work in the mines; and then as the forty-year-old he was today, smiling with Minerva by his side. The last one must have been painted today to celebrate her healing, I thought, although bewildered. Even more perplexing was the fact that at each stage, he was surrounded by fairies—not one brand of fairies, but a colorful mixture of yellow Spring fairies, green Summer fairies, orange Autumn fairies, and blue Winter fairies. I had never realized what color the Autumn and Winter fairies were, but now it was obvious, as if I had known it all my life.

Were those the fairies I had heard chatting earlier, the ones Prima had shooed away?

Soon Gesu and Prima returned; Gesu, solemn, Prima, smiling.

“I’m expected to be transferred to Autumn soon,” Gesu said. “Getting a little old, I suppose.”

I tried to laugh, but it came out short and stiff. Why was I afraid of him?

“Prima will take you to Spring.”

But how? I wanted to ask. What was he going to do about the mud walls?

“You will find the way—both of you, together. And I will always be with you.”

The pixie’s wings fluttered ever so slightly as she gazed up in admiration at the huge man.

I shivered, even though the regular warmth of Spring encased me with sweat. I didn’t know what Gesu meant, or who he was. I didn’t know if I could trust him, or this dainty fairy who baffled me almost as much as himself. What if this was a trap? What if Gesu was trying to get rid of me, to let me face the wrath of Queen Hazina, the ruler of Istagun, the builder of the towering mud walls?

All I knew was that Hollis needed me. And she was worth whatever risk I had to take.

S2: Quotes for My Novella

My work-in-progress novella, The Healer of Istagun, has a few themes. Here are some quotes to explain them!

Theme: God heals our wounds through His blood.

“Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.” ~ Isaiah 53:4-5

“But I will restore you to health and heal your wounds,’ declares the LORD” ~ Jeremiah 30:17

“Christ is the Good Physician. There is no disease He cannot heal; no sin He cannot remove; no trouble He cannot help.” – James H. Aughey

“But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its rays. And you will go out and frolic like well-fed calves.” – Malachi 4:2

Theme: He strengthens us through His sacrifice.

“I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” – Philippians 4:13 ESV

If it doesn’t cost you anything, what is there to gain? – Grace Caylor

“But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ.” – Ephesians 2:13

Theme: Love is sacrifice.

“Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” – 1 Peter 4:8

“Brotherhood means laying down your life for somebody, really willing to sacrifice yourself for somebody else.” — Tim Hetherington

“Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” – John 15:13

J6: God’s Love – An Ever-Fixed Mark

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Today we will be exploring true love and commitment, through Scripture and even Shakespeare…

“Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove.
O no! it is an ever-fixed mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wand’ring bark,
Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken.
Love’s not Time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle’s compass come;
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error and upon me prov’d,
I never writ, nor no man ever lov’d.” – William Shakespeare’s Sonnet CXVI
This poem always brings a stirring to my heart, awaking that longing that lies within each of us for an affection that lasts forever.

Too often, we humans fail to meet Shakespeare’s idealistic standard of love. We are shifting, changing creatures who one moment give sacrificially to a person and the next moment glare or yell at them for not taking out the trash.

Sometimes, when we see a flaw in a person, we’re shaken with frustration. Other times, maybe we’re simply tired of seeing that same old face, however beautiful, and we just search for that adventure and excitement we used to feel in those good old days.

But that isn’t love, according to Shakespeare. And yes, my friends, that isn’t love according to God either. God doesn’t intend to stop loving us, His plan isn’t to leave us as soon as He looks on the tempests’ of our wavering hearts:

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written,
‘For your sake we are being killed all the day long;
we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.’
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” – Romans 8:35-39

Our Creator’s plan for us has always been for us to consistently be in a loving relationship with Him. When we believe that Jesus’ death and resurrection has made that possible, we truly are “more than conquerors.” We can grow in Christ and follow Him to the ends of the earth, because of what He has so graciously done for us.

With eternal love in our hearts, we don’t need short-term bursts of infatuation or excitement to keep us alive. God’s “love alters not with [its] brief hours and weeks.” If we trust in Him, God keeps us alive with His unfailing love, no matter what season of life we’re in and no matter how we’re feeling.

So when you’re staring straight at disaster in a God-ordained relationship, don’t run away. Plunge through it with the armor of God and “[bear] it out even to the edge of doom.”

Because isn’t that what true love is all about?

The Beauty of Service

Some of you reading this might know that I went on a mission’s trip this summer to Denver, CO with Youthworks.
It was a wonderful experience where God worked in amazing ways. The community was blessed. I was blessed.

A beautiful moment was at the end of the trip when we had a foot-washing ceremony. The group leaders washed the students’ feet. If you don’t know what a foot-washing ceremony is, it’s based on the love, service, and duty Jesus performed toward his disciples out of humility.

“When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. ‘Do you understand what I have done for you?’ he asked them. ‘You call me “Teacher” and “Lord,” and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.'” – John 13:12-17 (NIV)

After serving a community with a group of my peers for a week, I got a chance to experience the feeling of being served myself.

A lot of the students had been crying this last evening, knowing they would be leaving people they had come to love as siblings in Christ as they served beside them. Or maybe there was more to it, that I couldn’t understand. Maybe it had been a life-changing week for them. Either way, the mission’s trip had certainly blessed all of us, and it was soon time to leave it all behind.

I was one of the ones who sat there and didn’t cry. It takes a lot to make me cry in front of people.

But as soon as my leader bent down to wash my feet, tears streamed down my cheeks. Even as I write this I’m reminded of that sweet moment, and I’m almost crying. Yes, it was a sweet moment, because my heart was touched by my leader’s gentle spirit as she washed my feet.

When Jesus washed his disciples feet, He was symbolizing what He would soon do for the world on the cross. Jesus descended to wash our feet, in that He descended to the earth to die for our sins and give us the new, good life. He showed sweet humility and deep compassion toward us, when we did not pay attention. He gave us a chance to wash the dirt of our sins away, when we committed them carelessly. The Lord poured out Himself for us, so we would be empowered by His Holy Spirit to live a life poured out for others.

We can’t truly love if we don’t receive love. And love is the most important thing, more important than the doing.

“If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.” 1 Corinthians 13:1-3

Without the love and humility from my leader, I would have felt nothing. I cried that night, because deep inside, I felt my leader’s willing selflessness as she washed my feet. I felt what the community must have felt when my group reached out to them. I felt what we all should feel when we think of Jesus’ enormous sacrifice for us, that offers us life–the overflowing, supernatural life that pours out into the lives of others.
“For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” – Mark 10:45

 

Anointed

“Jesus is coming to Bethany tonight,” Lazarus said in the doorway.

My hands stopped at the dishes. After I passed a quick grin to my sister, Martha, I rushed to embrace my tall brother. “Thank God!” I declared.

I was still overcome with joy every time I saw Lazarus, forever awed by Jesus’ authority to bring men back to life, which he had accomplished in my brother a month before.  How could the Pharisees and the teachers of the law not see it? How could they not understand? Jesus came to be a servant to all, just as we should serve Him—not only out of productive housework, but first and foremost out of a love for Him.

Lazarus quietly slipped out of the room to attend to his costumers at the smithy.

Martha lurched into action, dashing about the house, trying to cook dinner, sweep, and wash dishes all at once.

“Martha, Martha!” I cried, “Remember what our Lord said?”

She snatched the broom and tried to put a dish away, but she ended up knocking over a clay jar on the table. “Yes, I know,” she gasped, “But I can’t sit at His feet if He’s not here yet—and He can’t come here till this house is put into proper order.”

“But won’t you calm yourself?” I said, more gently now, trying to reason with her. “Prepare for Him all you like, so you may soon sit at His feet. But don’t fret, Martha. Be at peace, and be joyful in serving Him. I believe that is what He wants from us, sister.”

Martha’s scowl began to fade. Hunkering over with the broom, she swept up the shattered pieces of clay without another word.

 

A few hours later Lazarus informed us that Jesus would be feasting at Simon the Leper’s house, not ours. Martha tried to adjust to this news calmly, and we both rushed over to help tidy up Simon’s house and prepare a meal, with his wife’s help. Our anticipation quickened our work.

Soon, as we swept and cleaned, we sang joyfully to our Father in heaven. I was glad, so glad to see a smile on Martha’s face as she recounted Jesus’ last visit.

“I still can hardly believe he rose our dear brother from the dead,” she told me, sighing at the memory. “But of course, I have to believe whenever Lazarus walks into the room. He’s living proof.” Chuckling, she tilted her head at me. “You’re living proof, too—always so joyful, always kind. Jesus has got to be the Messiah, don’t you think?”

I paused at my broom, my lips curling into a smile. “I never once doubted He was.”

Simon’s wife set a plate firmly down on the table. “You’re fierce supporters of that fellow, aren’t ya? Well, I don’t believe it, though I support my husband’s beliefs and all.” She laughed shakily. “Lazarus could have been fake dying, you know… I-I just don’t believe it.”

Martha and I glanced at each other, not knowing how anyone could doubt in the miracles of the Lord, which so many had witnessed. But the demons had their ways, as they had on me before Jesus transformed me. I prayed that one day this woman would open her heart to the truth.

 

After much work, Simon’s guests entered the house. All the men settled down at the table to chat until the honored guest, Jesus of Nazareth, arrived. Martha and Simon’s wife worked hard in the kitchen.

I stood by the wall, waiting for my Lord to come. He would save His people from their sins. He would be a light shining in the darkness. He would be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace. I quivered inside at the thought. I knew that He was the Son of God, and that was enough cause for me to tremble. That He would one day open the floodgates of heaven to my wretched self, who had lived much of my life estranged by seven demons—that was enough.

But He had done more. He had cared unceasingly for my family, even as far as lifting my brother up from the pit of death. I could hardly wait to sit at His feet and listen to His words.

Jesus and His disciples entered the room. The men fell silent. Even Martha let the flat bread alone in the pan, and instead folded her hands quietly in front of her.

Presently, our Lord began to greet each one of us, bringing the house back to a charming lull of talk and laughter. His eyes spoke kindness as He smiled at me.

The Most Holy One was speaking to me. Yet I could not move; I could not bring myself to acknowledge Him or even fall on my knees. The dire thought that He was mighty enough to see my inner secrets, powerful enough to strike me down with a lightning bolt this instance—it overwhelmed me.

“Don’t be afraid, Mary,” he said gently, placing a firm hand on my quaking shoulder. Then He turned away to greet the others, leaving me alone by the wall, ashamed of my fear.

 

I watched Him speak to us in a deep, calming voice filled with both passion and sympathy. He spoke of the good news of the kingdom of God as He had many times before, revealing mystery upon mystery, layer upon layer of truth, yet doing so with a genuine love that I could not fathom.

Martha served the men while Simon’s wife lingered in the kitchen, but I was caught in my Lord’s words, which pierced my heart with truth. I longed to show Him my esteem for Him, my gratefulness for what He had done for Lazarus, my deep love for all that He was.

I knew, somehow, that He’d seen right through me when He’d greeted me, and He’d understood my fear. But as He even told me—He didn’t want me to be afraid. He wanted my love and devotion, the key to my heart, He wished to be the whole Reason of my self.

I drew the alabaster jar of pure nard from my satchel that I’d brought along, because I knew. I knew He would die, yet rise again as Lazarus had, only this time to bring the assurance of everlasting life we all were searching for. The knowledge of it penetrated my soul. He would be led as a lamb to be slaughtered. He’d be the ultimate sacrifice for all who believed in Him, for eternity.

Lazarus eyed me, noticing the jar in my hands, and he offered a smile of encouragement. Though my family had been saving this perfume for Jesus for two years, I knew that the time was now. Martha and Lazarus had given it to me as my responsibility, so I had every right to use it if I believed it was time. The Messiah deserved so much more than mere fragrance for his feet, but it was all I had to offer Him.

Father, I prayed, may Your Son’s name be glorified because of me.

I stepped forward, gripping the jar. My awe of Him, my delight in the Christ’s humility to grace this earth, my thankfulness for the miracle He’d done in Lazarus’ life—it all poured through me at once as I fell on my knees before Him, weeping.

“Lord, Lord,” I whispered, opening the jar and letting the strong perfume flow out over His feet. As I emptied out every drop of the nard, the aroma permeated the whole room. Trembling with emotion, I wiped His dripping feet with my hair.

“Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor?” a disciple of Jesus protested, his voice edged with frustration. “It was worth a year’s wages.”

Heat flooded through my cheeks. Would my Lord resent me for what I had done? Did He believe I despised the poor?

But I felt His hand on my shoulder. “Why are you bothering this woman? She has done a beautiful thing to Me. The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have Me.”

The tension released inside me, as I slowly raised my eyes to His warm brown ones. I was beyond grateful that my offering should please Him. Yet the thought that one day He would have to leave filled me with sorrow.

My Lord turned His focus back towards Judas Iscariot, the disciple who’d objected my actions, and then He continued. “When she poured this perfume on me, she did it to prepare me for my burial. Truly I tell you, wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.”

His words sent a roil of shock through me. That people would long remember me was an honor I knew I didn’t deserve. Yet if it should glorify Jesus’ name, praise God!

“Mary, are you all right?”

Suddenly I was aware of Martha’s arms around me, first embracing me, and then pulling me to my feet. “Will you help me serve them?”

I looked around in a daze. Jesus was now preaching to the men with the same audacity as before. The disciple who had spoken against me, Judas, was sulking in the corner. Noticing his empty goblet, I snatched a pitcher and came to him to refill it. After all, he had just as much as a right in the Kingdom of God as I did, if he only humbled himself. And through my kindness, perhaps he’d understand that I wasn’t a hater of the poor.

As I poured Judas’ wine, I smiled at him. For a moment he studied me carefully, and then his dark eyes narrowed, sending a sinking feeling within me.

Dear Father, I prayed fervently, help Judas and Simon’s wife and the rest of the doubters to all know that Lazarus was truly dead and made alive again. Help them to know that the same can be true for them in their hearts, and that my offering was nothing compared to His overflowing anointment on my soul.

(Historical Fiction based as much as possible on John 12:1-10 and Matthew 26:6-13.)