She sighs. Lets go of the day.
Reaches into the chest and pulls out the precious jar. So smooth and familiar. Walks to the square of moonlight outlined by the window.
Her eyes close as the scent drifts up. Strong and earthy and unmistakable. Like the mountains it grew on.
The spikenard had been hers for years and years. When she had been young, she had imagined her wedding day- pouring it over the feet of the man that she was to be one with.
But that day had never come.
The wild extravagance of the spikenard was still contained.
She opens her eyes. The moon is big and white and she thinks of the Being that she wants to understand. She thinks of the presence of their Friend. She thinks and wonders and looks forward to seeing Jesus at Simon the Leper’s house the next night. She thinks of all he has given them.
The life that he has brought them.
He had given it to Lazarus so literally.
She feels it stirring inside herself as well. The moonlight swirls inside and wraps around the tiny new life and tugs gently at it. Something about him made her want to hear everything he had to say.
She can’t wait to feel the peace that his presence brings. Sometimes, she thinks that obeying God is less about following rules and more about being filled with Him, so that everything you do is infused with the flavour or colour or scent of God.
He gives them so much.
It seems as though she owes him something. She knows that that is not what he would say. He values love and dedication and service. But she wants to give him something. Not out of pity, although she wonders what it would be like to have no place to call home, and so few belongings. She doesn’t want to give him something that will be a nuisance. She doesn’t want to give him a burden when it feels strangely as though he has taken hers away.
What to give.
What could possibly show him how grateful she is for the joy He has brought their family?
She traces gently the mouth of the bottle.
Her most valuable possession.
Her most valuable possession.
Her finger pauses as she considers this.
She picks up the flask and it gleams in the moonlight.
She thinks of bending and of tipping and pouring.
But she can’t give this to Jesus.
It had been meant for her husband.
It isn’t that she is clinging to the idea of marriage. More that she is afraid of the people who would see her on her knees before him. People who associated spikenard with marriage, because everyone associated spikenard with marriage.
She wants to do it.
But it is too close to scandalous.
Too close to frivolous.
She could never actually do it.
Quiet, unobtrusive, gentle, consistent Mary.
She tucks the jar away, tries to do the same with the strange idea, and covers the window.
Blocks the moonlight out.
The room is dark like she feels inside at the thought of not having something to give to Him.
Morning comes with sunshine and fresh air and birds and dew.
The same ache is inside her.
Torn between wanting to give extravagantly and not wanting to bring shame to herself or to him.
The day is filled with preparations for the evening, and goes quickly. It is almost time to leave, and she finds herself in her room on her knees holding the alabaster flask.
She loves and hates this thought.
Leaves the jar in the chest- full.
Leaves with her heart empty.
If only she had never thought of pouring the spikenard out for Him.
They arrive and she anxiously scans the room for Him, hoping that His presence will fill her where she feels empty.
Martha pulls her towards the tasks needing to be completed, but she keeps looking.
At the table.
He sees her and
She knows that He has done that for every single person in the house,
But it still feels
Like she is the most important.
And everyone else is feeling the same way.
A house full of important people.
He is the most important.
“Mary, I need your help.” She hears Martha’s voice but feels Jesus’ pull.
She whirls around and weaves through the full room and escapes to the empty street.
Hurries to her room and pulls out the alabaster jar. Closes her eyes and feels and smells for just a moment. Wonders if she should stop and reconsider this.
Doesn’t because she wants to go back to Jesus. Wants to give Him her very best thing. The thought of giving him less makes her feel warm and embarrassed inside.
She and her jar whisk back to Simon the Leper’s house, a slim, subtle shadow in the bright evening sunlight.
She approaches, and from the street hears the murmur of the people inside. Pauses. They will all see. She can imagine the conversations slowly dying, and the glances being exchanged, and the whispers, and the shrugs, and the raised eyebrows.
Maybe she shouldn’t….
But her heart burns and stings again, and it feels as though Jesus already knows, and that if she took the jar back home, and tucked it safely away, she would always feel ashamed and selfish.
The gift could be hidden away once again, but the risk in doing that seemed greater than the risk in giving it.
She opens the door and steps inside.
She turns to close the door, and rests her forehead against it for a moment. Looks over her shoulder.
Jesus is talking and laughing, and the scared part of her wants to use it as an excuse. He’s too busy for you right now. Maybe later you can find Him alone. Wait ‘til later.
But she has to do it, and she feels numb and stiff, and her fingers feel cold and like sticks, and she is afraid that her gesture will be more of an oddity and less of a gift.
And she doesn’t even have a towel.
Nothing to wipe off His feet.
It is incomplete and oily and uncertain. Quite possibly it will end up being more messy than it will be a blessing.
She is leaning her forehead against the door, feeling the insignificance and unworthiness and complications of this most valuable to her thing.
But then something inside of her warms and she knows.
Knows that he knows.
Knows that he has known and knows that he expects and knows that he will wait until she is ready to give.
Knows that what she has- in its small jar- means everything to him because it means everything to her.
Knows that her offering and his acceptance are worth infinitely more than the opinions of others.
And so she turns.
Leaves the rough sturdiness of the door and steps into the nakedness of the room.
When she meets his eyes, they are inviting and glossy and soft. She walks. One step at a time. It seems to take a long time to cross the room.
She feels the lull in conversations.
Feels the attention shifting to her.
Why can’t this gift be less conspicuous?
She looks at Jesus and his eyes keep her going. He wants the gift. It doesn’t matter if the other people don’t understand, or what they think, because Jesus wants this gift.
By the time she reaches him and kneels in front of him, the room is silent.
Eyes are filled with interest and concern and shock and ridicule and scorn.
It’s okay though.
It doesn’t matter if they understand or not.
This is what she was supposed to do.
Her job is to give her best to Jesus, and that is exactly what she is doing.
Her legs match her stiff fingers, and kneeling feels awkward and unnatural, and the floor feels gritty beneath her, and the tops of her feet feel uncomfortably stretched as she tucks them underneath her and rests on them, and she takes a deep breath and wishes her hands would stop shaking.
She looks up at Jesus, and he silently says to go ahead. It’s okay to give.
And she knows that her gift, her best, is safer with him than anywhere else it could possibly be.
So she does.
Off comes the lid and tendrils of the scent grow and spread and tangle their way through the entire room.
The aroma of wealth.
The aroma of giving.
She takes Jesus’ foot in her hand, holding it as gently as she can, and pours timidly.
Then realizes that she has no reason to hold back, and tips farther, and the liquid spills out and slides over his feet and down to her fingers and onto her lap. She carefully rubs the oil into his foot, her fingers losing their stiffness.
His foot is long and warm, and she wishes again for a towel. Wishes that someone would offer her one. She feels so alone in her giving. But no one does, so she pulls her hair over her shoulder and uses it to rub off the extra oil.
And her hair clings to the foot and the oil clings to her hair and it is all intermingled and the same and part of Jesus is part of her and she could stay on her knees forever. She bends over even further and presses her forehead against his foot and wants him to know how he fills her and completes her more than anything else ever has. The tears spill out and it is strange for her, because tears are not her way. Especially not in front of a wide-eyed, narrow-eyed crowd.
But it’s okay.
She can feel Jesus’ fingers warm on her head through her hair, and her gift feels completely safe and valuable with him.
Days later, when it is strangely dark, and there are rumblings and shakings, and numbing, impossible news, and it all feels unsettled and empty, the rich scent of the spikenard clings to her hair still.
She can still feel the long, warmth of His hand on her head.
The warmth increases when she pictures Life hanging on a cross, meeting death.
This couldn’t be the end of Life. Life hadn’t just come to tease them with promises of freedom and love.
Life hadn’t accepted her gift just to leave her.
She knows it.
She can still feel Him.
So she keeps living, and brighter days come.
The scent and feeling of Him cover her.