Sunday, February 8, 2009

The Redemption of ED

The Redemption of “ED”
This weekend, I attended an incredible conference at a local seminary. C. J. Mahaney, a passionate, dynamic spokesperson for Christ, presented a beautiful picture of the story of the woman with the Alabaster flask in Mark 14. In this story, the ex-dead guy Lazarus is hosting a party. Simon the Leper, who is no longer leprous, is in attendance. Martha is scurrying around serving (her claim to fame). The disciples are enjoying the company of the miracle-Worker and the miracle-recipients. This is a party full of people who owe their lives to the Savior. No one would expect to be censured for their elaborate expression of worship in this setting. No Pharisees or Sadducees are around to cast judgment. Just the good-ole Jesus-lovin’ ragamuffins and fanatics. But the fanatics had no idea what true devotion looked like until this monumental, history-making night that would go down into the annals of gospel history. True worship of the God-Man would take a whole new form and reach a completely new level of intensity. Jesus says in response to the woman’s act of devotion, “wherever the gospel is preached, what she has done will be told in memory of her.” So why did those who were present censer and scold her? Was it because she was not “holy” enough? Was it because her behavior was too extreme and somewhat embarrassing?
This is a bit of a side-note, but in contemplating this act, I wonder what Jesus felt like…If the nard was running in His eyes, if His hair felt especially greasy, if he was overwhelmed with the intense fragrance of perfume. I would have been a little put out honestly. “Man, I was having this great time reclining with my friends, and now I have to go take a shower. My hair is all greasy and my eyes are stinging, and I smell like someone who just took a bath in very pungent perfume.” But maybe this is where I have a little progress to make in my conformity into the character of Christ. Returning from my rabbit trail, I reiterate the significance of this action. This act of service was so beautiful to our Lord, first of all, because it was helping Him to prepare for His death and burial—the death that we died with Him that day on the cross.
This act, as Mahaney put it, was an expression of EXTRAVAGANT DEVOTION. The perfume was worth more than a year’s worth of wages. It could have been used in much more “practical ways.” It could have fed the poor or been given to the church. Why waste it in a moment on something so seemingly trivial. But this woman new something that even the disciples failed to recognize: Her time with Jesus was limited. Her passion for her Lord transcended the rational, functional understanding. She was so enraptured and caught up in overwhelming gratitude for Christ that she did something “reprehensible” in the eyes of those who were considered to be the most devoted followers—the disciples. Are the disciples ashamed that they didn’t think of it first? Are they kicking themselves that they weren’t so grateful and lavish? Or are they embarrassed at this act of social inappropriateness? Are they mad because the “relaxed” and “familiar” atmosphere of the evening is ruined? Is their pride wounded that Jesus would be so responsive to this inconceivable act? Mahaney says that this act is evidence of genuine conversion.
Conversely, in this very moment, Judas is plotting his betrayal. Within the next several hours, he will commit the most odious act of betrayal known to man in handing Jesus over to the chief priests in the church. What a juxtaposition: Judas, who is completely absorbed in his own advancement and gain; this unnamed woman, who is completely captivated by her Deliverer.
As I was taking notes on Mahaney’s message, I went to abbreviate “extravagant devotion.” I tried to write “ED” for this term, and as I put the pen to my journal page, I couldn’t write those two letters in the context of such a sacred act. “ED” has always been an abbreviation for something so much more Judas-like. My eating disorder consumed my life. I denied my Savior through devotion to this personal agenda. I tried to “sell” Jesus to the chief priest of anorexia. I denied my Lord as I tried to punish myself for my sins that were made public spectacles of on the cross of Christ. As my pen hovered over the journal page in this moment of cognitive dissonance, God spoke to my heart. He said to me, “My child, I have traded the “ED” of your eating disorder for the “ED” of extravagant devotion”. I took my pen and wrote “ED” with a new meaning in mind. My Lord said, “I have redeemed you and bought you back from your slave-master. I have brought you to a place of genuine, heart-conversion. I have turned your ED to a new ED. Don’t be afraid of this new extravagant devotion. Don’t fear the reproach of those who think of your behavior as extreme and fanatical. My servants often break the societal norms in their deep gratitude for me. Their joy in My tender mercies and loving-kindness cannot be restrained by ‘scolding’ or ‘censorship.’ They will make waves. These waves are kingdom-building, gospel-spreading waves.”
In the conflict of this moment of decision, I realized my new identity and my new relationship with the dying Savior who made a public display and spectacle of my sins upon His and my cross.
Oh, Lord, let my affection for you be the thing that sets me apart from the culture of this world. Let this alteration in the tone of the message of the gospel increase the power of its impact on the lives of the recipients. Let my new “ED” be always an expression of my deep joy and gratitude of surveying the wondrous cross on which my Prince of Glory died.

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