“I know all the right things in my head, but when it comes down to it, I am not really convinced God loves me.” She said it quietly across the table, almost hesitantly, as if afraid to say it out loud. But I understand, and have said it myself, that it is not His power or ability that we doubt, so much as His heart. And it’s like we are all back in the Garden standing beneath a tree with the whispering in our heads…. Maybe God isn’t who He says He is… and maybe He is not really good… and what if His love is not something we can trust, after all? It is the place we are stuck, that one moment in history working itself out in our individual lives over and over again, and our experiences in this world confirm that true love is an iffy business, and trust is a risk.
Even after we have been to the cross and have been re-created, we are often left with the lingering fear. Because knowing your sin and being forgiven is only a starting place in many ways, and feeling safe and truly loved is something different that might take a lifetime to gain. And we can explain all the practical ways to learn about God, but the only way for a woman to know for sure that she is loved, to sink that Truth deep into her heart, is to connect what she is learning about God to everyday life, put her theology into practice, till the old whispering lies have faded and she can hear a new voice saying, “For the Lord your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.” (Zephaniah 3:17)
We talked about Mary’s anointing of Jesus, the way she has become the example of lavish, unrestrained giving, holding nothing back in her adoration. What lies beneath her gift often goes unnoticed, because we (along with the disciples) get completely sidetracked by the value of her perfume. But Jesus considered her a friend, knew her as well as He did any of the Twelve, knew her heart and her struggles, and the whole thing is really about relationship and what she believes.
So we backtrack to discover how she gets to this dinner-time story, and we see her sitting at her brother’s bedside, watching him die… and Jesus ignoring her summons. We see her grieving at home when He finally comes asking for her. We hear her honest acknowledgement of bone-deep pain and loss: “…if you had been here, my brother would not have died. (John 11:32) Some struggles break you to your knees, and oddly enough, if you are looking for Truth, that is often the best place to find it. “You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. (Jeremiah 29:13)
It’s not so much a matter of looking in the right place as it is how much you want to find the answers; and in the wilderness– in the dark places of the soul– when your need is most desperate, there is nothing you want more. Mary is desperately searching for answers and she finds them in the Son of God standing right beside her, weeping. God’s Words echo down six hundred years with His promise: “Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands…” (Isaiah 49:15-16)
So here at the dinner table, with the fragrance of incense filling the room, we find Mary at Jesus feet, like she was the first time we met her… and her sister Martha is still doing what she does best by serving everyone. But this time Mary comes in worship, and in complete confidence of Jesus’s love and acceptance of her unexpected outpouring.
When she wrestled honestly with God’s plans for her life, because she could not understand what He was doing or how this could possibly be for the best, it was in her relationship with Jesus that she found her answers. He was incomprehensibly Other-than-human, and still the close friend who sat and talked for hours in their living room. He was powerful enough to raise the dead, and still able to feel their pain. He had His eyes on an eternal Plan for the universe, and He heard His friends in Bethany asking for help. It was her sister Martha who said it straight out, in the midst of her own grief, “I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.” (John 11:27) And they stood together, those two sisters, and watched their brother walk out of his tomb, while their Friend stood beside them and looked ahead to His own soon-coming fight with Death.
In this dinner-time story we see a woman who knows Jesus as Friend and Savior; who can live out her faith in confidence to serve Him, even when it goes against cultural standards; who knows above all that she is loved and accepted by the One who matters most. In a matter of days, Jesus will demonstrate unequivocally what God’s love looks like, in all its world-changing power. As the Disciple John will write later, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13) All our names, written forever on His palms as a sign of His love.
See, the more we get to know God and see Him at work in our lives, the more we know His love, and the more we realize we can trust Him– and this is what every woman needs to know above all. God loves us…”He loves us, oh how He loves us”…this is the song we will keep on singing.
So amazing to think about my life;Coming Through, Kim Walker-Smith
And after all that I’ve walked through,
I still see that
All I’ve ever known is Your love, Jesus.
Doesn’t matter the ugliness of the past;
Doesn’t matter the pain of the past;
This is how great Your love is,
How redeeming Your love is…
All I’ve ever known
Is a love that runs to the ends of the earth
Just to find me.
This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins….And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment.1 John 4: 10, 16-18