I’ve done a fair amount of recording—everything from singing jingles to make a few extra bucks in university, to background vocals for local bands and artists, to singing guide tracks, to recording actual real songs for albums. Some of the projects were purely for financial gain, some were for fun, some were favours, some were born of my commitment to worship.
In total honesty, of all of the songs I’ve recorded on worship albums, only a few have truly moved me. While there was nothing awry with the content or musicality of all the others, I simply didn’t connect with them. This doesn’t render a song good or bad, right or wrong—it’s simply personal taste. It’s about what moves me at a visceral level. Something different happens for me when I can really own the lyrics and spirit of a song; when I can really sing from my guts.
A couple of years ago, I was involved in the recording of an album of original songs at my church. I did not submit any of my own songs, but I had the great joy of recording one that I could sing authentically with all of my heart. It was written by my friend Anthony, but, truly, I could have written it. It said exactly what I wanted to say. It gave voice to my heart. It captured my life posture with the most beautiful language.
The chorus says “take my heart and break it open; pour my love out on you. Let me stay here at your feet and I’ll pour my love out on you.”
The words of this song locate me immediately at the feet of Jesus. I picture myself in the place of the woman who poured out perfume and great love on him. In spite of some obvious differences, I know I would recognize this woman as a kindred spirit were we to meet face to face—I know we would ‘get’ one another. And here’s what I want to say to her:
Dear Unknown Woman,
There are a few inconsistencies in how your story was told in each of the gospels, but all four contain a similar setting: a group gathered for a meal in someone’s home, you as the conspicuous outlier, expensive perfume poured on Jesus and someone objecting.
It’s believed that you were likely a former prostitute, or at the very least, of “ill repute.” Some think it likely you were Mary Magdalene. Whoever you were, you showed up, uninvited, to a Pharisee’s home and you waited for Jesus to arrive.
In the tradition of the day, you knew that Jesus would be greeted with a kiss and then the lowest servant would anoint his head with oil and wash the dust from his travel-weary feet. Maybe you were hoping to be chosen for the humble task?
Some accounts say you poured expensive perfume on his head. Some indicate that you poured it on his feet and then dried it with your hair. Regardless of the physical action, the heart posture was the same. Surrender, honour, gratitude.
The wealthy-dinner-party-attendees tried to make you feel inappropriate. You were a sinful woman at the feet of a respected man! How dare you? I love that you were willing to do whatever it took to be near Jesus. You were courageous in your willingness to face the disdain of those who considered themselves better than you.
The wealthy-dinner-party-attendees tried to make you feel wasteful. The perfume you poured out was thought to have been pure nard (an ointment or perfume used by the ancients made from an aromatic Himalayan plant) and would have cost the equivalent, monetarily, of a year’s wages. Don’t you realize how it could have been better spent? You likely invested everything you had to offer Jesus the very best. You also gave what you didn’t have; in the absence of water and a towel, you offered your tears and your hair.
The wealthy-dinner-party-attendees (the invited men) tried to make you feel even more uninvited—like a ridiculous, emotionally overwrought woman. Why couldn’t you get a hold of yourself? I like you so much because you were a maverick, refusing to be controlled by the religious, misogynistic powers of the day. Unhindered, you pursued the most important thing. You ignored them and courageously lowered yourself in worship.
You showed courage, honour and single-minded loving focus, and as a result, Jesus honoured you. The others saw only what was wrong and inappropriate and embarrassing about you. Jesus saw your heart. You literally poured it out. Jesus said you’d go down in history, and you might not know it, but you have! You are celebrated in history. Though your name is uncertain, we know you.
Jesus tells another story in Luke about two men who are forgiven debt: one is a smaller amount and one is great. The one who is forgiven much, loves much. Mystery lady, you and I have this in common: we have experienced his great love. We know his total forgiveness and acceptance. That is why we worship. That is why we pour it all out.
I get you. For you, Jesus wasn’t a slice of the pie; he was the whole dang thing. I understand this feeling. I know what it means to love our Jesus this much! There were people who tried to make you feel embarrassed about how much you loved him. I understand this and I don’t give a rip about what people around me think. I don’t care if people think I move too much when I worship. I don’t care if people see my tears fall when I feel God’s presence. His love overwhelms me. How could I not respond?
They say you were a woman of ill-repute, but I’m assigning you to my personal honour roll: “Women of Great Repute.” Historically, it sounds like you got some things wrong (don’t we all?), but you got the most important thing right.
Like you, brave lady, I will pour out my heart. I will do whatever it takes to be near Jesus. I’ll give everything I am and everything I have. I want to be recorded in history as one who did what you did. I want to be known for pouring it all out.
See you on the other side, my kindred lady-maverick friend.
#ladymavericks #womenofhonour #greatrepute #pouritout #worthitall