“To stabilize your mood, the psycho-emotional tears contain stress hormones that are released so your body doesn’t trap prolactin and endorphins inside, as they can become toxic to your health. These emotional tears also have natural painkillers that help you to feel better. To protect us from physical and emotional unhealth, God created our tears, our emotional mikveh bath to cleanse our sorrows.” –Dr. Christy Bauman, from Theology of the Womb: Knowing God through the Body of a Woman
The room is dark. The house, important. The owners, wealthy…also important. She had heard a dinner was to take place, and although she was not invited, someone she desperately needed to meet, was. She walks into the room of this exclusive meal, clutching a jar of expensive perfume, her life savings, the cultural key to her future. She squints her eyes, looking for this man who supposedly changes everything. This man who can bring order to fractured minds, cure skin of damning diseases, forgive a lifetime of sins with one word. She would give up everything for just one moment in the presence of this person, “God in the flesh,” she has heard some say. Well, she will see for herself.
“You shouldn’t be here,” a servant spits at her. A warm flush of red blossoms on her cheeks and for a second, she agrees. Maybe she was a fool for coming, for thinking the one they call Jesus would give her even a second of his attention. She fumbles for a valid reply, feels unwanted tears stinging her eyes. “I’m sorry, you’re right,” she says and turns back towards the place she entered.
But as she turns, she catches the eyes of someone watching her from the table, someone who looks like he is about to stand up and offer her a seat at the table, right next to him. She feels a shift in her spirit, a fearlessness rise up in her chest. She pushes past the servant, making a beeline for the man who has to be Jesus. Who else would make eye contact with her, a woman despised by everyone?
Hands trembling, she approaches his chair. What do I do now, she wonders. Her courage wanes and she drops to her feet, dissolving into a pile of tears. A lifetime of shame, regrets, and hopelessness spills out of her in loud gasps. She realizes she has soaked Jesus’s feet, and rushes to dry up the tears with her hair. By now, all conversation has stopped, and all eyes are on her. She braces herself for the correction and shooing away that she is sure is about to come from Jesus. Surely she is embarrassing him…
Anoint me, she hears in her spirit as if God himself is speaking to her. She looks up at Jesus, sees his warm smile, sees that his eyes are wet with emotion. She looks back to the jar of perfume she has set on the floor beside her knees. Only men have the authority to anoint kings, according to the Law. Why would Jesus ask her to make this public declaration? Why would Jesus give her the power to name him as the prophesied Messiah? She could think of a thousand shame-filled reasons why she was not worthy to confer this kind of priestly anointing on him, but all at once those reasons left, and all that remained was love. Love for herself, love for Jesus, and she could think of nothing she wanted more than to kiss Jesus’ feet and smother them with the perfume she had stored up in her alabaster jar.
The men seated around the table raise a ruckus, protesting the offensive actions of this woman, but Jesus sits still, moved by her brave and costly faith. He defends her, praising her bold affection, and vocally forgives of her of every wrong thing she has ever done; he releases the emotional tyranny of every wrong thing that has ever been done to her. Who has this kind of power? She gathers her wits, stands up, prepares to leave, when Jesus stands up and pulls her into a bear hug.
“Go in peace,” he whispers, and peace cascades over her entire being. She quietly leaves the room, completely changed.
This story, imaginatively lifted from Luke chapter 7 verses 36-50, has captivated me since I was a child. My understanding of it and connection to it has evolved over the years, as I have matured and evolved, but the singular truth that Jesus offers welcome, forgiveness, love, and friendship, particularly when everyone else isn’t, has marked my faith in profound ways. I have found sanctuary for my own pain and sorrows within the confines of this story, time and again.
I continue to find that Jesus is the safest place for the hardest parts of my story.
Dr. Christy Bauman, in her book Theology of the Womb, goes on to say, “The baptism of tears is a function of the body to release hurt and remorse before it becomes toxic. We birth the sadness and release it, creating a baptism of tears; we come close to death in order to find rebirth and make our way to a new life again” (pg. 76).
Our sadness and our tears are part of what heals us. Evil seeks to steal our embodied worth and objectify it, diminish the creative life our bodies and spirits could generate in connection with Jesus. But the blood of Christ falls from the cross, his anguish mingling with ours, to demolish death’s grasp over our lives. The tears of our pain anoint Jesus into the position of Resurrected King over every thread of harm in our story. Shame no longer has any authority to name us and determine our futures. God alone gets that power, and through the baptism of our sacred tears, we are made new. Death doesn’t get to name us. Expectations don’t get to name us. Cultural gender roles don’t get to name us. Our pasts don’t get to name us. Jesus gets to name us.
And He has named us beautiful, forgiven, liberated, and called. This pure love and pure freedom transforms us from ones tied to millstones of death, to ones co-reigning with the Creator of the universe, the Origin of all things, Love itself.
With Breaking the Jar, my forthcoming collection of poetry with Finishing Line Press, I hope to offer a glimpse into the recovery process of emotional trauma. Maybe it’s spiritual, maybe it’s sexual, whatever it is, it has created deep wounds and continuously seeks to feed a deep well of shame. Through these poems, I am inviting all women (and men) to find peace at the feet of Jesus. Whatever anyone believes is keeping them from living a free, full, and purposeful life, can be broken and transformed at the feet of Jesus. Our embodied pain becomes our embodied authority to cultivate abundant life.
Here is one of the first poems I wrote in this forthcoming collection:
Breaking the Jar
I sit at your feet and weep
into your heavenly hems
Soaking through barriers
my sorrow has no feet.
I rend my heart before you
seeking all you are
to be all I am not
I lay in Your wounds
safe and sound
Your love is beautiful wine,
Am lost again
We can be safely hidden in Christ’s wounds, thoroughly healed in Christ’s wounds, and wondrously remade in Christ’s wounds.
Read more about “Breaking the Jar: Poems” and secure preorders here.