For the past few months I have been a little perplexed. Perplexed may be too strong of a word for it. Maybe puzzled is more like it. Uncertain for sure. Even a little troubled.
Since the beginning of the year I have sensed God’s presence in a more tangible way. It could be because I have made some choices in my life to move towards him. Some deliberate choices. Nothing grand. Simple steps really.
I have heard it said that if you feel distant from God it’s not because of Him. He hasn’t changed, He hasn’t moved. It’s very likely we have moved away from him. So I began to ask myself why there was a gap. How had I drifted, how far away had I actually been blown off course?
Thankfully, not terribly far, but just a degree or two can take us very far from the destination He has in mind for us.
I evaluated how I was spending my time, what I was “feeding” on. What was I allowing to come before my eyes? And the word of the Lord would come to remind me once again.
“Turn my heart toward your statutes and not toward selfish gain. Turn my eyes away from worthless things; preserve my life according to your word.” “Take away the disgrace I dread, for your laws are good.” Book of Psalms
The disgrace I dread…the worthless things…
And my heart would desire to lean into Him once again. My longing would return for His word. Thankfully I began to move back on course.
The men I meet with every Thursday night (when I’m not traveling) were asking themselves some of these same questions. All of us knowing that if certain behaviors didn’t change, we would be shipwrecked. Some of us admitting that we weren’t reading the bible. Our prayer lives were next to non-existent. Fortunately someone suggested listening to the word. We began doing that.
I listened to the word being read fresh every day. And little by little, day by day my heart began to come alive. It began to thaw from its deep freeze. Much like the frozen ground of winter begins to thaw in the spring.
My prayer life changed. My habits changed too. I hungered for His word, hungered for His presence in my life. I didn’t really sense the change as it was happening. Like a ship that has set sail, the wind began to fill me and I headed out where it would take me. Confident that the course was corrected. Knowing that He was guiding the journey.
The journey in the New Year took me to Africa where my companions and I,“walked through slums that turned into holy ground.” “Where the veil was pulled back and we witnessed a little piece of eternity.” “Where we were introduced to the forgotten and they became chosen.” These are not my words but the words of a dear friend that had her life transformed by doing something that mattered.
And what we did for those few days did matter. We found hope in the ruins of shattered lives. Hope began to tell us her name. And there are many.
So let me return to what has perplexed me since I have returned from walking on holy ground and meeting the forgotten.
At first I thought it merely a coincidence. So many of the people that I met at the beginning of the year had names that started with an M. Maurie, Mariah, Mandy, Matt and Meagan. All travelers with me to Uganda. Nothing particularly unusual about this.
Then I met the “girl in the red dress” – Mariela. I wrote about her.
Then I started thinking about that letter. And realized how many people I love have M. names – Mia, Madison, Makenzie, Mark, Melissa and Mercy. All immediate family.
Again, just a coincidence. But I couldn’t stop thinking about M’s and the girl in the red dress.
Now I’m in India, again walking through slums and sensing the ground was sacred, witnessing little pieces of eternity and meeting the forgotten.
And here I meet Mahime – the girl whose name means praise, also wearing a red dress. I wrote of her too.
There were other M’s and other red dresses. Just coincidence? Now I’m not so sure. Now I have to ask God what He might be up to in all of this. What am I supposed to be seeing, what am I missing?
And today I think he answered.
Of course with another M word. One I had not heard before or did not remember hearing. Maundy. Yes, maundy. Oh? Maybe you haven’t heard of it either.
We all know that this is Easter week. We’ve heard of the Passover. We know of Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday. He died for our sins! The stone was rolled away! And I don’t take this lightly. His sacrifice was a debt we can never repay.
What I want to talk about today is maundy. Today is Maundy Thursday. What I want to dwell on for a moment is what might have been going on in Jesus’ mind the hours and days before His greatest gift was to be given.
Go back with me to the days just before the Passover, to the Passover meal. Picture him washing the feet of his disciples. Don’t move too quickly from the scene. Wait, let’s go back a few more days. Go back to the scene of Mary pouring expensive perfume on the feet of Jesus. Don’t move away from the scene just yet.
Linger there for a moment. Imagine yourself there.
You can smell the scent of sweet perfume. It’s overwhelming. The air is thick with it. It almost makes you choke. You look in disbelief at the waste. What is this woman doing? You nod your head in agreement when Judas objects to the extravagance. This could have surely helped the poor.
Stay here a little longer. Can you see Mary? The perfume is surely mixed with her tears by now. Her hair is soaked from the mixture of heavily scented perfume and fragrant tears. She quietly sobs and tenderly washes the feet of the man that was larger than life. Something heavenly was at work.
He knew what was happening at this very moment as only he could. He was being prepared for burial. What must that thought have been doing to his soul? Had the crushing begun? Was his heart breaking as he watched Mary caress his feet? Did his heart break from the lack of understanding from the very men he had loved so intimately?
Let’s move on a few days to the Passover dinner, that fateful Thursday when Jesus washed the feet of His disciples.
Don’t pass by this scene too quickly either. Imagine the emotion that Mary displayed for a second. Is there any reason for any of us to believe that Jesus was just going through the motions of another foot washing ritual?
Any reason to think that he possessed less emotion than Mary did?
No, I think not. I think that Jesus shed tears of his own. Tears that fell into that washbasin and mingled with the water.
Tears that created their very own fragrance.
A perfume that filled the house.
A sweet scent that rose to heaven.
Tears that mingled with the tears of the Father himself as He watched the scene displayed before Him.
This was an indescribable display of humility! Our very Lord, our very God washing the feet of mortal men. Of men that misunderstood him, men that would betray him, men that would deny him. And I imagine that his touch was gentle and his prayers were soft.
So as we celebrate Good Friday and Easter Sunday, let us not lose sight of Maundy Thursday. For it was on this day that he gave the command to all of us to do the same for each other. This was His mandate to us. His “maundy”, which in Latin is madatum, which means “command”.
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.” John 13:34
Now we need to follow the thread of red. I suppose the obvious answer is red is the color of his shed blood. But I think the answer goes beyond that. Red is a color of boldness, of strength. It says notice me! Just like the girls in Uganda and India. They begged, no; they demanded to be noticed.
As my friend reminded me, red is threaded throughout Scripture, remember Rahab and the scarlet cord? And she reminded me that at times we get these threads and we don’t really know where they lead, but when we keep following them, we find a tapestry of truth. A tapestry so much larger, so much richer than we could have ever imagined. And the truth is so intricately woven.
So to be reminded on this day, to remember in this week that Jesus was preparing Himself to be poured out for us, that is indeed holy.
“Beloved, let us love one another. For love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.” 1 John 4:7-8
A special shout out to Alex Crain and his article about Maundy Thursday on crosswalk.com. Otherwise I may not have ever solved the mystery of M’s.