At one point during my college days, I rented a room in the home of my friend Mandy and her mom, Mary. One evening Mandy and I were sitting in my room just talking when she looked at me soberly and said, “You are the angriest person I’ve ever met.” Talk about random! I thought she had lost her mind. I was Little Miss Sunshine, for goodness sake! Mandy went on to explain what she meant and watched as the implications of this slowly began to sink into my brain. She could have led me in a Bible study to unravel all this information I now had lying in a heap in front of me. Instead, she gave me a set of God –inspired instructions. First, after she left, I would shut my door so I could be alone. Then, I needed to turn on an old box fan to cover up the sounds of the crying I would do. Finally, I needed to have a real, honest, lay-it-all-out conversation with the Father. Check…Check…Oh no. An honest conversation with God? He didn’t want to hear what I had to say. I didn’t want to hear what I had to say.
I had never heard of approaching the throne of grace with confidence. I went before the Father with the same kind of shaking and dread of the unknown that Dorothy and her friends did when they went to visit the Wizard the first time. Come to think of it, my whole image of God was similar to that whole scene. I began by rattling off things to God that were bothering me at the time. It was more like reading an accident report to a claims adjuster than an actual conversation with another person.
I don’t remember how it happened exactly, but I stumbled and said the first really honest thing to Him: I was angry with Him. For my lack of a meaningful, romantic relationship. For the bitter struggle to put myself through college while my friends seemed to have an easy ride. For His not making my dad accept and love me despite my imperfections. For not protecting me as a little girl many years ago from a perverted uncle who molested me. Oh yeah, throwing the blame on God was all a huge load of malarkey from the enemy, but I didn’t know that. Not really. So I unloaded. It would actually be more accurate to say I unleashed. It got loud, and it got ugly. I had to bury my face in my pillow because, by that time, that poor old fan couldn’t cover up the sound of the mess coming out of me.
As strange as this may sound, I knew that the violation of my body as a little girl was not nearly as damaging as the knowledge that my dad wasn’t around to protect me from it. How could he? He was an alcoholic who traded all his responsibilities and joys as a daddy for the next cold can of Pabst Blue Ribbon and any woman who would say “Hello”. That kind of abandonment ripped a jagged wound in my soul more devastating than my uncle had. The reality was I was left with an inability to navigate through relationships that required any decent measure of trust. It wasn’t until that night in Mandy’s house that the disgrace was revealed by the Holy Spirit to be what it truly was…Not mine. It never belonged to me. A depraved man and a selfish addict could not make me hold onto the shame God never intended me to have in the first place. Miraculously, forgiveness has flowed as freely for both my dad and my uncle as I have felt God’s grace wash over me again and again.
Fast forward to a year and a half ago. I was reintroduced to a woman whom I have come to know even better than many of my friends I see on a daily basis. She’s the sinful woman who crashed the dinner party to which Jesus was invited. Here is Luke’s account of this scandalous event (Luke 7:36-50):
One of the Pharisees asked Jesus to have dinner with him, so Jesus went to his home and sat down to eat. When a certain immoral woman from that city heard he was eating there, she brought a beautiful alabaster jar filled with expensive perfume. Then she knelt behind him at his feet, weeping. Her tears fell on his feet, and she wiped them off with her hair. Then she kept kissing his feet and putting perfume on them.
This is a beautiful image, but not in the pristine way I had always pictured it. There was no way to generate the amount of tears to fall heavily on His feet without a considerable amount of facial messiness. To put it bluntly, sobbing like that gets rather ugly. She didn’t care. She was there with a singular purpose…to worship the only One who loved her purely. Notice the reaction of the host of this gathering:
When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know what kind of woman is touching him. She’s a sinner!”He and the other men were mortified that a woman like her was even there, much less making such a spectacle of herself. She was a sorry excuse for a Jewish woman. Surely a preacher who could hear from the Righteous Judge would know that!
Then Jesus answered his thoughts. “Simon,” he said to the Pharisee, “I have something to say to you.”
“Go ahead, Teacher,” Simon replied.
Then Jesus told him this story: “A man loaned money to two people—500 pieces of silver to one and 50 pieces to the other. But neither of them could repay him, so he kindly forgave them both, canceling their debts. Who do you suppose loved him more after that?”
Simon answered, “I suppose the one for whom he canceled the larger debt.”
“That’s right,” Jesus said. Then he turned to the woman and said to Simon, “Look at this woman kneeling here. When I entered your home, you didn’t offer me water to wash the dust from my feet, but she has washed them with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You didn’t greet me with a kiss, but from the time I first came in, she has not stopped kissing my feet. You neglected the courtesy of olive oil to anoint my head, but she has anointed my feet with rare perfume.Please don’t assume Jesus’ story and explanation had the simple intent of putting ol’ Simon in His place. He demanded that these men look at this display of adoration because it was something they themselves were woefully unacquainted with. He framed in gold a priceless heart of faith and the pure worship of a disenfranchised daughter of Israel. This was all in brilliant contrast to the substandard welcome He received from pillars of the community.
“I tell you, her sins—and they are many—have been forgiven, so she has shown me much love. But a person who is forgiven little shows only little love.”
Then Jesus said to the woman, “Your sins are forgiven.”
The men at the table said among themselves, “Who is this man, that he goes around forgiving sins?”If forgiveness hadn’t been enough, Jesus lavished even more love on her in the form of a profound blessing: “Go in peace.” A deeper look at that Greek word for “peace” reveals Jesus’ full meaning…”Go in wholeness.” Jesus was setting back in place all that had been damaged in her life. All the trust trampled and innocence lost. He restored her to the place she was created to dwell as a child of the King. She was one He had come to live and die for. He did it because He loved her…exactly like He loves you and me… unreservedly and unashamedly.
That night in Mandy’s house God gently held me in His strong arms. His hand rested on my head. I didn’t hear a word from Him about being a frightful sight of disrespect. I still don’t. All I had from that moment on was the healing I had longed for all my life. I found the tangible love I desperately needed more than oxygen in His presence. He showed me that He would always provide for my every need… He accepted me and would never reject me, flaws and all… He would remain fiercely protective of my heart as though it were a freshly wounded lamb. He has never stopped loving me this way. That, I can tell you gratefully, is worth shouting from the rooftops.