Creator of the universe
Creator of the universe
This beautiful drawing really caught my attention at the Grahamstown Arts Festival last year. It got me thinking. It’s become a metaphor image for an ongoing conversation with God for the past year.
The story it depicts is of a lady ‘who had lived a sinful life’ who gate crashed a dinner party where Jesus was being entertained by men from the religious elite. She crouches at Jesus’ feet and weeps, washes his feet with her tears, dries them with her hair and pours precious perfume on them.
If you just imagine the scene for a moment. This was a posh dinner party, people keen to impress the ‘teacher’. People putting their best foot forward, trying to sound intelligent. The best dishes were out.
Everyone knew that this woman stood out like a sore thumb. They were shocked that Jesus was letting her touch him. Doesn’t he know what kind of person this is?! They were trying to ignore her but she was making that difficult.
Can you imagine… the noise, the weeping, the mess, the snot. All over Jesus’ feet. The disruption, the intimacy and the disrespect is shocking. Imagine how horrified and offended everyone was.
Everyone apart from Jesus. He doesn’t seem to mind at all.
In fact he turns to the religious guys and asks ‘do you see this woman?’ and then commends her. He compared their hospitality and welcome of him to hers, and she comes out top in his opinion.
I’ve been thinking. The implication in his question ‘do you see this woman?’ is that he sees her. He sees her and receives her in all the mess of her raw emotions, snot and reality.
So often when I’m feeling in an emotional mess I want to sort myself out before I come to God. But this image and story has so powerfully spoken to me about Jesus’ ability to cope with, even welcome, my mess.
He is more able to meet us deeply if we come to him honestly where we are at, rather than presenting where we think we should be. If we are pretending to be somewhere we are not, he can’t meet us there.
So I’m trying to come to God as I am. I am using journalling to tell God the reality of how I feel, rather than trying to resolve it or fix it before I come to him. It’s wonderful to experience what it feels like for him to ‘see me’ and love me in the midst of where I am. It’s been freeing and so comforting.
The drawing is based on Luke 7:36-46
The artwork is by Jonathan Griffiths and is available for sale if anyone is interested.
You can contact him on email@example.com
This Christmas I’ve been thinking about how surprising it is (if we reflect afresh, ignoring the familiarity of the story) that Jesus did not come as a powerful king with a palace, riches and an army. He didn’t have to enter the world as a baby but he chose to. As I look into the eyes of the babies in my life, I’m struck by their powerlessness and dependency on their parents. How radical and shocking that the creator and king of the universe chose to enter the world like that. Chosing to strip away all power and privilege he had every right to claim, to be a vulnerable baby to an unmarried mother. Born to a family travelling away from home, with no place to stay and then fleeing for their lives, refugees if you like.
Even as a grown man he was a homeless wanderer, a controversial vagrant who owned nothing and encouraged his disciples to also go out into the world with no bag or possessions. He chose to hang out with people on the edge of society, the people others shamed and rejected. He didn’t do anything to elevate or justify himself in the eyes of others, in fact quite the opposite. He was not a king who dominated people but who chose to serve and invited his followers to do the same. He didn’t demand obedience but invited people to walk with him.
If we look at Jesus as a person and if he is the exact representation of God as he claimed to be, it gives a very different view of God than if we take our view of God from the fallen and broken groups of ‘religious people’, who obviously and continuously get it wrong and misrepresent His heart, as we all do.
So I’ve been thinking, for us who follow him and seek to emulate him in our lives, maybe we shouldn’t hold onto entitlements to a steady life, comfort, wealth, people’s good opinions or worldly power/influence. He could have chosen to have all those things but instead chose a life with none of them. That in itself is such a challenge to me. What am I expecting from life and are those expectations consistent with emulating the one I claim to follow?
I want to share with you a post written by a new friend of mine from Canada, who I met on my trip to Uganda and Burundi. She writes beautifully about her experience of the trip and you can read it here.
Born in someone else’s outhouse, shared with animals
Buried in a borrowed tomb, dependent on the kindness of strangers
He who had every right and ability
To have more than everything He needed
Chose to depend on others
Chose to have nothing of His own
Chose to model vulnerability
And instruct his disciples in it
“Take nothing for the journey—no staff, no bag, no bread, no money, no extra shirt.” *
Not having a car in Cape Town for a couple of years overall has been a serious challenge. Public transport is limited and only available by day. I’ve had to learn to ask for and receive help. It’s eroded some of the negative independence I accumulated living in London, where I was able to get wherever I wanted, whenever I wanted since I was 16. It’s been painful. I’ve squirmed and fought it. Wanted to repay or back away. But I know God has been teaching me to be dependent on Him and interdependent on others. To be vulnerable.
In western society independence is elevated
Revered as supremely important
Seen as a great virtue.
We want to be in a position to do it ourselves
Not to need anything from others
So we won’t be let down or lacking.
But there’s a man who demonstrates a different way
Tells His followers and friends to go out with nothing
Encourages them to depend on community and on God.
To admit we don’t know
Don’t have what we need
To reach the end of ourselves
To recognise we can’t make it happen
Can’t have everything tied up, controlled, neatly resolved.
But as we lay down our security and comfort
Our pride, self-sufficiency and independence
As we wait for Him to reveal himself
He invites us to rely on Him
To rely on our community
To let them in
He invites us into the freedom
Of the ability of ask for help
And the ability to receive it.
Because we will never fully experience
The love of God or the love of those around us
If we don’t sometimes chose that vulnerability.
Thanks to Dave Meldrum, who’s Good Friday reflections service was the starting point for these thoughts.
* Luke 9:3 The Bible, New International Version— All poems and original writing on this blog are Copyright © Hilary Murdoch 2013
I sent an email to lots of friends the day before my driving test, to ask them to pray. And I posted it on facebook. Public statement made.
A friend replied and said it was brave of me to let people know before the test. She said that some people might wait until they had passed to tell people.
I realised it had been a decision on my part to be vulnerable – to share my life with my community, to ask for support, to let them in. And I realised I’d grown. In our culture vulnerability is seen as a bad thing but choosing vulnerability is something I’ve been on a journey with God about for a while. I used to (and sometimes still do) think I need to be the strong one, the together one. I need to be fine. But in this particular journey I’ve been realising that vulnerability is not what I thought it was. It’s not sharing something personal about yourself with someone, it’s allowing others to see you when you are weak, when you are confused, when you don’t have it all together, when you are not fine; to not always have to be strong. That’s something I’ve wanted to grow in and actively choose.
So when I didn’t pass my driving test the temptation was not to tell people, yes that’s pride welling up. But I had to because I had told people it was happening and people were asking how it went. So I told people, by email and facebook, public declaration, forced into squeemish humility of admitting failure. Trying to obscure it slightly with humour and breezy nonchalance.
And the responses came in thick and fast: reassurance, hugs, love, kindness, affirmation, hope, encouragement. In my place of weakness and disappointment I felt held. I felt known, accepted and loved.
Choosing vulnerability seems costly at the time but yet if I hadn’t chosen that, I wouldn’t have felt the richness of the love of my community in that place of weakness.
It’s a good lesson for me to know I don’t have to get everything right and to know I’m still accepted and loved.
Of course last week’s events were a very small thing to be vulnerable about. Many people fear vulnerability, fear being taken advantage of, fear being kicked when they are down. Sure maybe we need to be wise about who we are vulnerable with but without vulnerability, without admitting we are human and a work-in-progress and without choosing to ask for help, we can’t experience being known and loved for who we really are, held even in our place of weakness. It allows others to see that there is a place for them in our lives.
Maybe in some ways the level of community and connection we experience depends on the level of vulnerability we choose to show.
You may also want to take a look at:
Wow I’ve just found an incredible TED video about vulnerability, I’ll post it…
How are you?
Never ‘really good’
Even if you are
What if the other person isn’t?
Never ‘not very good’
Even if you are
Fear of making others feel awkward.
Who are you honest with?
Maybe not appropriate with everyone
But do you have some?
Some people you would talk to
If you were full of joy?
Or if you were really struggling?
Or if you were chewing over a tricky issue?
Not just a facebook status
A real depth of conversation
Honest and deep friendships are costly
Vulnerability is a risk
It’s a conscious choice
Letting our guard down
Sharing our weakness as well as our strength
But it’s worth it
Superficiality is cheap
Reality is rich