Have you ever walked in the painful shoes of the reproached? Or stared down the barrel of rejection–the pointing fingers forcing you to the margins? Has your heart received the bruises of ridicule?
Of course it has!
At some point in life most of us have been the proverbial new girl sitting alone in the cafeteria, mocked for our uniqueness, blamed for our genetics or shamed for our desire to belong.
It was the first day of high school. The bus carried twenty-five of us loggers’ kids from our woodsy little community called Trail (no kidding) to the nearest high school 18 miles away. There was the usual mix of excitement and trepidation. I stared blankly out the window as I ticked off telephone poles and hoped I’d find my locker, master its combination and get to my classes on time.
Third period. I walked into the music room for choir, took a seat in the multi-rowed semicircle and hid behind an armload of books. I soon became aware of snickering coming from a group of boys sitting directly behind me. My face warmed. I held my breath, praying there wasn’t some wardrobe (such as it is when you’re wearing your mothers clothes) malfunction or a similarly mortifying faux pa.
“I smell bacon!” He blurted out. The words lodged in the back of my head where they were aimed. I froze. Again and louder he repeated, “I smell bacon!” A rally of cruel laughter broke out and then a harsh nudge was delivered to my shoulder.
“Oink. Oink. Oink.”
I wasn’t overweight but I was well-developed. (I had once been mistaken for the substitute teacher in 7th grade.) But we girls, we newly emerging women–we can’t be thin enough or pretty enough or anything enough. I received those words as believable commentary on my body and vowed to alter myself.
You see, I had spent the entire 8th grade in my coat, refusing to take it off in class because of the naked shame of abuse. Though Mrs. Sawyer chided, reproached, rolled her eyes, clucked her tongue and even turned up the heat–her obsessive attempt to get me to shed my pea coat armor had failed.
I carried that “pig” indictment around with me the better part of that year as I cut carbs and applied more makeup. In the springtime one of those boys offered an apology–of sorts. “It was because your clothes smelled like woodsmoke.”
She too had been chided. Ridiculed. Judged. The derision leveled at her didn’t come from a bully collective but from her own–her family, friends and faith community. Mary was an ardent follower known for her single focus and extravagant worship. Her devoted stay at the feet of Jesus once evoked the ire of her sister. The costly aromatic oil she poured on the crown of her King stole food from the mouths of the poor–or so the leaders in her faith community asserted.
But Jesus, on his way to ultimate betrayal, came to her defense and spoke words that reveal His posture toward all we who have ever been maligned, marginalized, maltreated and misunderstood.
“Leave her alone!”
Can you picture it? Though He keeps His love turned on, He doesn’t mince words in silencing her critics..
He speaks into the scene of those places in our lives as well, both past and present, where we are in need of defender, protector, and advocate. With the baritone of authority He similarly quiets the voice of our fault-finders–of whom we’re often numbered among.
Another translation says, “Let her be.” Can you hear it, dear friends? Can you hear the timeless words of the One who never lets you out of His sight or misses a single beat of your heart? He speaks up for you.
My prayer is that this truth sinks into your soul like healing balm; that it crowns your head with the fragrant and costly anointing that makes you His. That you remember His words when other voices threaten your peace…and your place.