A Hesitant Surrender

Seagulls squawk their hunt through the seaweed. Children shreak and splash. Two teenagers throw a football – their bodies all awkwardly formed but not yet filled. A man dunks his wife into the water. All the while, the waves crash relentless against the shore. And I think about how, even in the midst of all this chaos, God still sees a heart that’s come to the shoreline to remember how small I am, to glimpse how big He is, to find room again to breathe – perhaps even to dance.

And somehow my mind wanders to the woman with the alabaster jar – the one who brought her treasure to pour out on the feet of Christ:

“And there was a woman in the city who was a sinner; and when she learned that He was reclining at the table in the Pharisee’s house, she brought an alabaster vial of perfume, and standing behind Him at His feet, weeping, she began to wet His feet with her tears, and kept wiping them with the hair of her head, and kissing His feet and anointing them with the perfume.” Luke 7:37-38

She has always seemed to me so devoted, so reverent, so holy. But today, I let humanity crawl into her skin. Today I let life lie in her bones. I let emotion swim in her tears. And I wondered – why did she cry? Today I let her past and her hopes and her fears and her failures cry out in need of a Savior. And I wondered if we might not be so different. Today I let her hesitate. Today I let her mourn. Today I let her stand in the presence of God Himself, and a little of her own holiness waned as I let her sense the holiness of her God.

Did she kneel at His feet to remember how small she was? Did His road-worn soles do for her what I came hoping this expanse of ocean would do for me? Did she approach with her treasure in hopes that she would remember He was worthy of it?

She wet His feet with her tears before she broke the jar of ointment over them. She wept in His presence before she poured out her prize. I wonder about those tears. I wonder if, perhaps, as she knelt there before her God, she cried because she wavered. Because she hesitated. Because although she knew that He was worthy, she still counted the cost. I wonder if she grieved the loss of her treasure even as she chose to pour it out. I wonder if she wept before Him because she warred within herself – to keep what was rightly hers or to pour it out upon the One who had proven Himself so worthy and so good.

I have always imagined her breaking that alabaster jar in confident worship. I wonder today if she did it more as some kind of desperate surrender. The ripping-off of a bandaid. The eyes-shut-tight leap from a ropes course. The dunk-your-head-beneath-the-waves commitment to a swim.

I have no way of knowing. Perhaps she was much braver than I am. But I suspect she was just as human. And even if she wasn’t scared, I grasp at the hope-preserving possibility that she could have been. I grasp at the prospect that the Savior before whom she knelt is big enough to look at our trembling hands and still see the worship that we long to bring. I grasp at the promise that His strength is made perfect in our weakness.

And I hold up my hands as if to show Him just how weak they really are. Not strong enough to hoard my treasure. Not strong enough to release it either.

Long after the gulls have flown on and the children have gone home, long after husband and wife have left the water, long after the football toss has ended, the waves continue their crashing. And the monotonous white-noise testifies to the surety of our God. He is unwavering. He is undeterred. He is unmoved. He is no less God. No less worthy. No less holy. He is unthreatened by my hesitation.

He whispers a promise – “You have nothing to prove.” And I find in His confidence the room to breathe. And I try to whisper back that I trust Him, but He counters that I really don’t.

And I admit that He’s right.

And then I see it – the tiniest crack in the jar that holds what is most precious to me. I am both relieved and afraid – desiring to let go but tempted to continue to hoard, to find a new jar in which to catch my treasure.

And then He shows me, so tenderly, my two options: to watch the ointment leak, wasted onto the floor or to pour it out upon His feet. To anoint my own self for death or to worship the One who offers life. And I exhale as I break it open over His feet. And I weep. But I breathe deeper too. Because it was never really mine. And it was really, really heavy. And I was weary with the hoarding. And as I clutched it, I hadn’t even realized that I held certain death. All it had to offer was a preparation for a burial that this Man died to deliver me from.

Maybe she wept as one torn by surrender but relieved by it too.

Jesus, with the fragrance of her offering still wet upon his feet, looked at her, “and He said to the woman, ‘Your faith has saved you; go in peace'” (Luke 7:50). I bet she could breathe again. I bet she could dance.

No, she hadn’t come with anything to prove. And neither have I. And neither have you. We have come only with what we have been given. We walk in peace only when we give it back.

Kneeling small before our great big God, before the One who could choose to snatch the jar from our hand, we instead find One who basks in the fragrance of our offering. We find One who sees the struggle and rejoices in the gift. We find One who knew all along that we had to pour out our tears and our treasures to receive His peace.

Emptied for the filling.

Yes, Lord, emptied. Be all that fills.

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