by Michelle Barton
There is a story in the Bible (Mark 14) that I just love about Mary, the sister to Lazarus and Martha, and her worship of Jesus. She breaks a bottle of perfume/oil, completely pours it out to anoint Jesus, just leading up to his crucifixion. While others in the room are critical of this act, Jesus says, " She has done a beautiful thing to me," and "I tell you the truth, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told in memory of her." I love the imagery of this: Mary breaking the bottle and pouring all she has out for Jesus, because he is worth it. But I also love that Jesus is touched by it. He defends her and calls this beautiful. And I wonder what it was that was most beautiful, her generosity in the value of the gift? Her vulnerability, and willingness to look foolish in front of the others? Her desire to care for and nurture Jesus because of love? Her apparent understanding of Jesus' purpose on Earth? I'm certain it's all of it... its everything. Its the complete picture of being poured out, used completely and whole-heartedly, without reservation, in honor of and in love with the Lord. This story is often used to illustrate both worship and generosity. I love the picture. But what I love most is the closeness she has to Jesus, and I can't help but wonder how I could possibly give myself to Jesus in that way. It is so relational, so selfless, and so trusting. So when I pray for God to help me pour myself out in that way, I am focusing on those qualities... Lord, please help me trust in you, motivate me by love and in love, to give my life and who I am for your will, because you are worth it.
I had an interesting revelation today concerning this very thing. Well, maybe not this very thing, but somehow in my head, this is what connected. While in final preparation (one-week countdown) to go to Jamaica for 3 months, I am starting to feel burnt-out. We have been packing so many things into our final month, including dance performances, birthday parties, small-group and send-off gatherings, Paul's cabinet installations out of town, and of course the packing, making lists, wanting to organize the house and eliminate some of the unnecssary clutter that has accumulated, and the result is that my house looks like it has been poured out. (My 4 kids are very helpful in that area as well) I have been feeling overwhelmed because I want to look a certain way(organized)and feel a certain way (rested) as we see the people we love. I want my house to be clean and tidy and cozy as we visit. Not that that is a bad thing, but it just isn't the reality right now. And I've started beating myself up about it in my head, because I am more aware of my short-comings and concentrating on the un-checked check-lists. And I feel like I will always be that girl, who at age 16 still needed help from her mother to get her room clean, who at all times has baskets of laundry unfolded, and dustbunnies reproducing madly in every corner, and fingerprints and nose prints and yes, even tongue prints on my windows... The past couple days, I have just been dragging because I feel tired, and slightly overwhelmed by not having as much done as I thought I would. And we have been having people over, and we are wanting to see more people, but we have packing to do... and it startled me that what I was starting to look at as something to "get through" is such a huge blessing, I wouldn't want to miss this. This moment in time is irreplaceable and awesome. And its a reminder of what I want my life to look like. While the pace is a bit intense right now, it is so cool to have the showering of love by all our family and circles of friends at church and even at dance class. All the final interactions before we go tug a little (maybe a lot) at our hearts. Goodbyes can be difficult, but having those feelings is such a great reminder of why we are here! God is so relational! We don't want to miss this part because we are distracted by the lists. So, anyway, my thought actually brought me to the other Mary and Martha story, and reminded me to cherish my time in relationship, and be willing to let people see what it looks like to have a messy house. And be willing to put off a lot of the organization projects. And be willing to let people see my 2 year-old wearing three layered shirts with his funny pleated dress pants, and my baby in her pajamas at noon, and me with no make-up, because it really isn't worth losing time over. The packing will get done, and even if something is overlooked, does it have to be a big deal? As in Jesus' case with Mary, his time was short. Isn't that the truth for all of us? When my life is over, I want to be poured out. I don't need to have a clean house, or a house with all the right stuff before I leave this earth, but I do hope to have cherished many people.
So, I do not feel that being "poured out" means exhausting ourselves, but what I wonder is if we maybe do it best when we are exhausted, because then we can't pretend. Perhaps it includes being transparent enough to give our "imperfect" selves to the world around us, trusting that we still have something to offer in our weakness, faults, etc. and know the Lord will bless the offering of our true self. And that is when we see the blessings.... Isn't that the point of relationship... to be real? SO maybe what we see in ourselves as nothing is actually something: like negative space in art, or stillness in a dance. When we feel not enough, we still have hearts to give. And at the points we feel empty, we can draw from the Lord, who provides and replenishes all we need. It isn't about what we do, but that we do love. And love is a resource that never runs out. Because the Lord first loves us. Doesn't that make it easy to worship the Lord? So maybe what I love best about the picture of Mary, is that she places herself at Jesus' feet, knowing that as she offers all she has, what she needs is more of Him. And so the offering is the acknowledgement of her neediness. And Jesus calls it beautiful.