It had been a couple years since I’d seen her, but here she was - in all her refined glory, greeting me from across the table with kind eyes that made my heart want to gush. Her gaze is so sincere, curious, and so very full of hope.
This friend of mine has seen very much in her young life. She is kind and compassionate, has a deep place for justice, and loves with every ounce of her being. She exudes creativity, and I sometimes wonder how many famous people she’ll meet in her life and never boast about. Her person is impressive and confident, and her humility is what beckons my heart to love her all the more.
Any ounce of praise you give her she accepts, though with a slight flush and almost imperceptible shake of her head, and then points back to one encounter that marks her specifically. She’ll tell you she met a man who changed everything, and showed her a part of the world she never knew existed.
As a child, she spent a lot of time wandering the meeting places. The temple was the place of community and worship for her small town, and her sweet heart loved to observe the bustling about, this power of observation positioning her perfectly to zip in and almost unnoticeably to save the day, often. She lives with her eyes and her heart open, resulting in many last-minute saves to grandmothers with toppling fruit baskets, young children about to stumble upon a jetted-about stone, and sad hearts filled with courage through her touch. The phrase “actions speak louder than words” originates from how she lives her life, I’m pretty sure. She is of high value and knows it, but not piously so: everyone loves her; genuine affection runs deep in this community of hers.
There was a peculiar bunch she always watched in the synagogue. Amongst all the “normal” genuine people, from poverty stricken to those of affluence, were the Pharisees. They were the “Keepers of the Law,” of the very Word of God, but the sweet child always had her eye on them. Something about them prickled her tiny, wise soul, and even in her young years she knew it was Elohim calling her attention. She grew up with an innate knowledge of something greater than herself and what she could see with her eyes.
This peculiar people wandered about town loudly, always making their presence known, always dramatic in their bulky, ornate garb, always using big words as they prayed in the open commons. The sweet one never knew why they used such words in prayer; she spoke to God as she did her other friends and it worked just fine. Her Papa told her a story one time in whispered tones that Moses talked to God face to face, like a man does to His best friend. So she does too. Assuming the Pharisees must have a good reason for their odd behavior, she always resolved to believe the best in people. She’s remarkable, that way, that child.
Growing up, there had always been talk of the Messiah, an always wondering of when He will come and bring salvation for her people. There was a day always hoped for where the King of Kings would reign, bring justice for every wrong, take up His rightful authority, and redeem creation to its original state. Someday, she thought often, she would worship God and see Him. Many thought you could never see the most Holy One, but in her heart of hearts she kept the secret --- someday she would see God.
She was, you know, right.
Her love for God is pure, and her desire for all to know Him just pleases Him so.
Making the rounds in the temple courtyard, the sweet child moved from space to space as usual, without notice. Seeing the men selling the animal sacrifices scattered about various tables, bartering with the people coming to worship, stowing away coins for themselves and tricking at times those unaware -- it left her little heart indignant. "Do they not understand what this place is for?" She asked herself this often as she wandered, and wondered what it would be like to be in God’s presence. Undaunted, she didn’t realize no one else really thinks this way, and it’s good no one told her so. Little hearts must be let loose to dream and embrace the Creator God, without limitations and “This is how to and how not.” Or is it mistaken that the smaller the human the larger the imagination? I think not. God enjoys them possibly most, I do believe. Her content nature to dream and ponder was her protection from the criticism and scrutiny of the “wiser” ones.
She had just rounded the corner, but turned her head back quickly to see a man - the one from Nazareth - approaching the men selling their goods with fury in His eyes. Most everyone in Jerusalem was talking about him, how he’d healed many of disease and deformity, how he spoke with authority and knowledge. This man had caught her eye once before, and now, she couldn’t remove her gaze - she watched his arms fly up quickly, fall hard against the table, bouncing it’s contents about. His next motion flipped the table on it’s head, scattering the goods everywhere. He continued, casting table after table aside, turning, throwing chairs until each was not as they were just a moment before. Everything in the Temple stopped for a moment - Pharisees and commoners alike, mouths agape. Silence welcomed his booming voice: “The Scriptures declare, ‘My Temple will be called a house of prayer,’ but you have turned it into a den of thieves!”
The sweet child’s heart burned within her, skipping and leaping about - she recognized his zealous fervor, for it matched the indignation in her own heart. He was different than any other. He threw aside the salesmen but there was no question that he had the authority to do it.
Recoiling from the blow, the men quickly left the temple in a mortified huff.
Without a thought in her mind, she ran to Him, this sweet one, as fast as she could and stopped just short of his legs. She peered up at Him, and He down at her, now locking eyes with her intent gaze. She knew who He was, He could tell. She is a bold one, full of a courageous love.
Suddenly they were surrounded, encircled and pushed upon by the blind, the lame, the broken, and the little children making their way between legs and any gaps they could find. The Priests and Pharisees stood outside, peering, leering even, uncertain of what to do. He had offended them, of course, acted out of an authority they had not given. Whenever He came around, trouble ensued. They could feel every time, the grasp they were losing on their “flock.”
The sweet one watched him as He touched wounds, spoke with a soft authority, and talked of his Father’s will. She knew His Father, and she knew He was the One. He was the Creator. From the midst of the circle He healed, restored sight, made a man’s hand grow back properly, and made restless hearts stand straight. Every disease restricting the wounded from entry into the temple - based on the book of the Law - He healed, restoring relationship between God and man to it’s original intent. From her lips whispered, “The Son of David,” louder yet “Praise God for the Son of David!” The other children looked at her and began echoing, “Praise God for the Son of David!” Though some denied it, everyone knew that day that the Salvation long prayed for had come. The Messiah was standing in their midst.
She followed Him, from that day on. Sometimes bringing him water or bread, others just listening, but she absorbed His teachings better than most older ones.
If you ask my sweet friend why she is sweet, she will smile with genuine tears in her eyes and tell you that God gave her a tender heart. But if you press her further, she will remember this day, and say that firsthand she saw Jesus take the justice of His Father seriously, yet did not withhold kindness and wholeness from those in need. He does not move without the Love that compelled him to come in the first place.
With tears, she might tell you about another other time, when she followed Him to the cross through the angry, confused crowds. That time she did not see God’s justice, but heard her Messiah instead ask forgiveness for the very men who wounded him. She watched Him die that day, a thief’s death. Upon rising from the grave she left flowers beside, He said His death was for the many: that many would live, that many would love, that many would prosper in joy and truth - He came, absorbed injustice, and offers completion to anyone who will accept His free gift.
She knows of the beautiful way, and has sadly watched many reject Him.
But I know her heart is sweet because He made her so, because she knows that He delights in her. Her heart is kind because He is kind to her, and she knows it pleases Him. She loves justice because she walks with Him, and loves to be His friend. Deep friendship she offers to those around her, because she knows what friendship is. Fully alive, fully awakened, not one part of her being is without the knowledge of God, and she loves it that way. Persistent in love, loving the seeming unlovely, pursuing the ones who are forgotten, she demonstrates what it is to know and be known. She is not forgotten, so she treats others as though they are not. She is remembered, so she chooses to remember. From the depths of her soul, she is awake, and alive, and she thrives in the place of secret: she is never lacking and never left in want.
Her Papa told her once in a whisper that Moses talked to God face to face, like a man does to His best friend. So she does too.
This is the audacity of the Gospel, quite really. The Man who turned religiosity on it’s head to heal on the Sabbath, to meet the sinner and proclaim new life, to bless those who aren’t deemed worthy.
Audacity looks tender, is powerful, and real.
How do you believe this Gospel? Rend your heart; I rend mine.
There is strength in weakness and blessing in bravery.
Let yourself get broken before God, and let him tenderize your spirit.
Meet with Jesus today, and ask Him for a moment that will mark your life forever, too.