Last Wednesday was a heavy day. I felt more like I was buried beneath the hump rather than joyously riding it toward the week’s end. The day began with a history class lecture on the American system of slavery and its intimate relationship with all of the institutions, particularly ecclesial, that weave together our American fabric. I had little to say, but afterwards a classmate asked what the lecture felt like for me. I had not yet pieced together all of my thoughts, so I said some heady things and mentioned that there were moments when I felt emotional.
But I did not mention how I shoved the emotion down to my feet, ensuring that my face did not betray my weeping heart. I failed to mention that when doing the readings in preparation for class, I also suppressed a wave of sorrow attempting to pummel my steeled nerves. I neglected to tell her how realizing that my body houses the DNA of a captured, scattered, traumatized, and exploited people is completely overwhelming. I remained silent about how this was the umpteenth time that I had heard the narrative, and yet I felt shame for almost crying – because why should I lend new emotion to old knowledge?
And then evening came, and a group of us gathered to breathe our way through a community-initiated service acknowledging the realities of human trafficking. Along with scripture, we read three survivors’ accounts, and we ended with anointing. As the oil dripped down my forehead, the sumptuous fragrance filled my nostrils, and my mind traveled to that moment in Bethany when Mary anoints Jesus’ feet with the most extravagant and costly of oils and wipes them with her hair (John 12:1–8). I marvel at her closeness to Jesus and her audacity to perform this act of love publicly.
And I wonder if I can do the same – if I can bear the cost of what it means to be in such proximity to Jesus in preparation for his death. I ask myself if I can draw near to the pain and suffering that I feel, my own and others’. Can I anoint the pain and tears, rather than push them down? My heart hurts, and I do not know if I have the stamina to do the work of healing. I am unsure if my strength will be sufficient enough to confront a country whose legacy was built upon the trading of human bodies and souls. A legacy that, indeed, continues to manifest in forms of systemic racism and human trafficking.
In the previous chapter of John, Jesus and Mary weep together after the death of Lazarus. When he sees Mary’s pain, Jesus is “deeply moved” to share in her weeping. Here, Mary reciprocates Jesus’ affection with her anointing. It is okay to weep, Mary shows us, and the tears matter. They are part of the anointing.
As we approach the final days of Lent and will soon enter Holy Week, I think that it is important to remember the tears, the weeping, the wailing. To be near Jesus’, feet preparing him for what comes next. To pour real tears onto the road to Golgotha, and to let the emotion embody every inch of our being even though this is the umpteenth time we have heard this story. We will keep anointing Jesus for his death year after year, and we will continue weeping until we fully live into the fulfillment of God’s kingdom. We will tell the stories over and over until that day.
What fears hold you back from drawing near to Jesus?
How will you carry your weeping into the world, and show extravagant love to others?
Lindsey Ardrey is a first-year seminarian from the Episcopal Diocese of Louisiana. She is passionate about books, reading, creative writing, and participating in community living. Her great joy comes from sharing smiles and love.