Out of the blue the memory flies back. It takes my brain hostage as I replay bad choice after bad choice. I rationalize. I remind myself that I am forgiven. But sometimes the sting lingers and my stomach knots and the guilt drowns out the truth. I was seventeen years old. My November birthday caused me to start my first year of college just shy of eighteen. With much to prove and an acceptance-craving heart I walked myself right into the Lion’s Den.
It was Halloween: an excuse for young women to dress as scantily as possible and coin it as a costume. This man, who was really just a boy, one a few years older than me, had been befriending me for weeks before. He made big promises to this stardom-bound girl. He wooed me with opportunities to make my dreams come true. In the few weeks prior he had invited me to two events where “stars” had gathered. I naively believed his intentions were good.
Then that night of mischief and mayhem came to pass. The boy-man invited me to a party. I reluctantly joined him. It was a small party full of people I didn’t know. They were laughing and I was acting like I belonged. The time came to pull out a camera documenting the antics of the evening. Still desperate for belonging I played along and kept on acting. With a pit in my stomach I posed for the camera shaming myself and ridiculing the God who loved me so. The picture was really a picture of a great depravity. It was a picture of my rebellion that played itself out in full force in the coming months.
Driving down the street a decade and a half later with three babies in the back seats, I can still feel the shame well up like this all happened last night. From an outsider it wouldn’t have seemed like a big deal. It was just a silly picture in the eyes of most. There was nothing exposed other than the desperation of a young girl to belong. But, my heart physically aches to go back in time and shake that girl. I want to tell her all the things that I know now. I want to tell her that she is worth so much more. I want to tell her to Whom she actually belongs.
In Luke chapter 7 we meet a “sinful woman.” Jesus is invited to dine at a the home of a Pharisee. A religious man. One who is well-read and well-bred. He has done everything according to rules and plans. He has taken the straight and narrow way and not strayed from it.
“And, behold...” as Jesus is sitting to eat in this man’s kept home and kept life an unkempt woman, sinful and broken rushes into the picture. In her own desperation and passion she fell at the feet of Jesus. With tears she took the most valuable thing she owned and poured it out over His feet. Her hair, once used to woo, at this moment wiped and rubbed the anointing oil right into the Anointed One.
In verse 38 we read she stood behind Him weeping. I know that feeling. I know what it feels like to carry so much shame that looking into the eyes of your Savior is just too much. I know what it feels like to not feel worthy of the mercy, worthy of the love. I know what it feels like to hide my face because His is just too much. The light of His face would uncover all my sin.
The next verse pans back to the Pharisee. The shock and awe of it all was just too much to take. He tries to make sense of the nonsensical. He tries to reason what He is witnessing because it is scathingly uncomfortable.
“This man, if he were a prophet, would know who and what manner of woman this is who is touching Him, for she is a sinner.”
Close-up on Jesus, now.
“Simon, I have something to say to you.”
“Teacher, say it.”
“There was a certain creditor who had two debtors. One owed 500 denari, and the other 50. And when they had nothing with which to repay, he freely forgave them both. Tell Me, therefore, which of them will love him more?”
“‘Simon answered and said, ‘I suppose the one whom he forgave more.’”
The truth is that I have been in both these places. I have been this shame-ridden, desperate, full of sin woman. And, I have also been this pride-filled, puffed up Pharisee. Many of my days, I forget what I have been forgiven and how I have been saved from both places.
“Therefore I say to you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much. But to whom little is forgiven, the same loves little.” (vv 47)
And now, Jesus gives both sides a chance. It’s these grace-lined words that can bring a shame-filled or puffed up sinner down to her knees. Because there is truth here that sets us all free. I have been on both sides and I know the weight both lives can bear. And, I know the great mercy that flows when you sit at the feet of your Savior.
“Your faith has saved you. Go in peace.” (vv 50)
The word saved in Greek is sozo. It can be translated: to save, to heal, cure, preserve, keep safe and sound, rescue from danger or destruction, deliver. In primitive cultures it can simply be translated “to give new life” and “to cause to have a new heart.”
As a young woman I knelt at the feet of my Savior, too ashamed to look up, and in His great mercy and unfailing love He set me free. He healed me. He cured me. He preserved me. He kept me...safe and sound. He rescued me from danger and the destruction. He delivered me.
He gave me new life. He caused me to have a new heart.
Today, I find myself at His feet again. The outward shame washed away. The outside of this cup is quite clean. But this time it’s what is inside that I pour out on his feet. I have no fragrant oil just a long list of judgements and pride-filled thoughts. I have a heart that needs to made new again today. I have a heart that longs to be refreshed and revived. I have a heart that longs to love much.
So, I pour it out. My pride, my self-seeking, my selfish ambitions, my judgement, my better-thans. I wash His feet with my tears, and if I could, I would dry them with my hair because I know that His grace is not cheap. I know that it is weighty. I know that it cost much.
I let myself go back to that Halloween scene one more time. It was out of this dark moment that came bursting forth a glorious light. The humiliation I brought upon myself wipes clear away because of the One who humbled Himself just for me.
I linger there. I can never undo my poor choices. I can never take back what has already been done. But instead of letting it haunt me, I let Him heal me. And, I sing a song of thank you’s and I tell the world that what He has done for me He can certainly do for you.
Shame-filled or pridefully-puffed up, I know you both. I am both. But I invite you to sit at the feet of the one who saves. He will not disappoint. He will forgive you and deliver you. He will set you free, my friend and send you out in a peace indescribable. And, then you can go and love...love very much.