Have you ever had something that someone said just stick in your head. It replays over and over again. It lingers in the space of your mind waiting for the opportunity to be applied to your life. It's like your kid's jacket that you keep finding on the floor, and it just needs you to find it a hook to hang it on.
Last week, one of those things got spoken, and, after one week, I finally found the hook to stick it on.
Jesus shows up for the inappropriate.
I don't know if you are like me. I could be one of a few. I have a feeling I am one of many.
I care about what people think.
I know that there is a serious down side to this quality of mine, but I know that sometimes our greatest weakness is our greatness strength as well. I am attentive. I can sense others' discomfort. I like to think it makes me a good hostess--always aware of drink refills, who is not engaged and could use some introducing, and when to serve the next course. This "gift" has been useful and helps me be all about others. On the other hand though, it can inhibit me because I worry what people will think of me. My mind is constantly thinking through how what I am doing will be perceived. I feel like I am getting better everyday. I am becoming more okay with who I am. The more I like who I am, the less I require other people to like who I am.
I have found this issue popping up in worship and church and the way I respond to God.
There is a hunger and a desire inside this girl for God. I want to know Him. I want His touch. I even feel desperate. But something seems to stand in my way:
The fear of what others will think.
I want to be proper. I don't really care to be judged. I definitely don't want to be seem weird. I find myself conflicted as I try to operate inside some kind of set guidelines.
The Bible is full of inappropriate people, people who were in the wrong place, at the wrong time, doing the wrong thing.
The woman with the issue of blood: She should not have been in that crowd of people. She was marked unclean. She shouldn't have touched anyone, least of all a teacher. But she was desperate. She knew Jesus was her answer. She knew if she could just touch Jesus's clothes her problem would cease. She would be healed, changed, better. Her desperation was greater than her desire to be "appropriate."
The woman who washed Jesus's feet: She should not have been at that dinner with religious leaders. She was a prostitute. She shouldn't have bought a gift from her pro money for the Son of God. But she was desperate. She wanted to express her love. She poured out her tears and her costly perfume on the feet of Jesus. She used her hair (a woman's mark of beauty especially at that time) to clean his feet (the dirtiest part of a person's body at that time. Think: heat, dirt and sandals...ew!). She was inappropriate. She was offensive (to the Pharisees). She knew that if she could just express her love for Jesus everything would be alright. He could heal her heart. Her desperation was greater than her desire to be "appropriate."
The short-statured, ruthless tax collector. He should not have been in a tree. He should not have been amongst people whom he had cheated. The people hated him. But he was desperate. Something in him said that if he could just see this man called Jesus, maybe something would change. Jesus should not have picked him out of the crowd. He should not have gone to his house. Zacchaeus was a lying cheater who had become rich on the backs of the already down and out. But Zacchaeus had a desire for something different... a desire to see if he too could be changed. His desperation was greater than his desire to be "appropriate."
The men who lowered their sick friend through a roof. They should not have cut a hole into someone else's roof. They should have waited in line... waited outside... waited for a different opportunity. They cut a hole into a roof! Of someone else's house! But their friend needed a touch from Jesus. They knew if they could just somehow get him to Jesus, he would be healed. They were desperate, and they used desperate measures. Jesus didn't condemn them for ruining the house. He healed their friend and saved him from his sins. The desperation of these men was greater than their need to be "appropriate."
These people were inappropriate. The stood outside of what was acceptable. But Jesus saw their hearts. He looked at them, and He saw the desperation of their need and the desperation of their desire to have that need met, and He went to them. He met their need. He forgave their sins.
Sometimes I feel inhibited by what's expected of me. It could be the first-born child in me, but sometimes I feel I live under this weight of expectation. I try so hard to get it all right. I worry what my behavior should look like when I am at church, and not really in a way that I always recognize. It's subtle. Sometimes it's really simple things like not going to the altar to pray because people on either side of me are already in prayer, and I would risk interrupting their God-moment (that would be rude, right? Isn't "thou shalt not interrupt the ones in deep prayer" somewhere in the Bible?). Or not wanting to kneel because even though God is dealing with me, I worry that I will draw attention to myself (That would be making a show, right? Aren't we supposed to not do that?). I worry I might offend someone who is a "non-believer" (Is that not the greatest offense of all? Shouldn't we be "seeker friendly?"). I know. I think way too much. I worry way too much. And you know, not only can worrying what other people think be unhealthy, not only is it a form of pride, it can also be a form of idolatry! It is setting the thoughts and opinions of man ABOVE God. It is setting religion and appearances as more important than what God is doing in the heart. It is limiting God. Ouch!
I was thinking on this, and it reminded me of a particular time in my life. I was a teenager. I was naive. I began a relationship with a super hot, super popular guy. Only problem, he already had a girlfriend. Oh, he led me to believe that we had this deep and great connection. I don't really care to go into the story because it's really not the point. I bring it up because I remember what it felt like when I would see this guy in halls and he'd wink at me... when no one else was looking. He'd call me or talk to me... when no one else was around. He'd take me to a party... that only the adherers to the sacred "bro-code" were at. What I thought was a great friendship that was leading to a great relationship, was a sham. I was the notorious "girl on the side." I was a thing best kept hidden. I wasn't worth being the real deal. It was painful, hurtful.
I think, perhaps, this is a glimpse of what God feels when we hold back out of fear of what others will think, when we hold back because of what the "church norm" is or out of fear of being "inappropriate." God doesn't want to be our "god on the side." He doesn't want to take the back seat to appearances or what is "the right thing to do." He wants to be claimed. Recognized. Pointed to and pointed out like in my relationship with my handsome prince for a husband who, in stark contrast to my secret high school affair, loves and cherishes me. He makes an effort to say in all kinds of different ways, "This right here is my woman. She is a priceless treasure. And I love her."
God honored the inappropriate not because they were inappropriate. He honored them because He saw their hearts. He saw their need. He saw their desperation. He was deeply moved by their willingness to look ridiculous just to get his attention. I think of the movie Ten Things I Hate About You when Heath Ledger's character plays the song, "I need you baby, and if it's quite alright, I need you baby for all the lonely nights..." over the loud speakers as he dances in the bleachers for the one he loves. It's ridiculous. But it's moving because he made himself so vulnerable.
God isn't looking for weird for weird's sake. He is looking for hearts that are fully towards Him. He is looking for actions that match the desperation of the need and the belief that He is the only Way, Truth and Life. He is looking for demonstrations that match a heart of love for Him. "This right here is my God. He is a priceless treasure. And I love Him."
God doesn't want to take a back seat to religion.
So what is the proper way to worship or express one's love of and need for God. I don't know. And I think that's the point. The Bible does talk about crying out, musical instruments, singing, raised hands and falling to one's knees... but I don't think a set of rules can be made for it. In following hard after Christ, there isn't really room for religion and rules. "It was for freedom that Christ set you free" (Gal 5:1). "Where the Spirit of the Lord is there is freedom" (2 Cor 3:17).
The Way doesn't make sense to the wise, only to the foolish (1 Cor 1:20-21). It is offensive (Matt 10:34-37). The Way looks strange--not of this world (John 15:19).
Jesus was improper. He was judged. He was considered weird. He definitely operated outside of the religious guidelines that were in place. He offended many, but He came to save the world. He brought life and life abundant. He left behind his Spirit to guide us into truth and to allow us to operate in the same power that He walked in. Jesus even warned his disciples to not be surprised when the world thinks you are strange and when it hates you (John 15:18-20). And I can't be so naive as to think that "the world" doesn't live in the church, that Pharisee's aren't present in the church, and that I myself don't struggle with the same spirit that was on the religious leaders that Jesus spoke out against (Matt 23).
But oh God! How I long for you! How I long to see you move. How I long to see the needs of the desperate met by the power of God working through his people. How I long for miracles. How I long to worship you in spirit and in truth.
I am desperate. I am a housewife in need of my Savior. I am in desperate need of a touch from God... of the patience, perseverance, faith and love that comes from walking in the Spirit... following hard after God and His Ways. I long for freedom. I long to cut loose
I can't help but think of David in all this. I want to be like David when people scoff at my response to God. "Yes, and I will come even more undignified than this..." (2 Sam 6:22).
"Letting go of every mistake
Throwing off the chains of restraint
All that will remain
A passion for Your name
Running as we run this race"
-Hillsong United "Running"
Watch out world, this girl is throwing off the chains of restraint and running after Jesus. It might just get all undignified up in here. Haha!