Today’s episode is about being thankful we can be the person God created us to be, in whatever form that may take. It’s the third in our Thankfulness series, leading up to Thanksgiving Day next week here in the US. Our Canadian friends beat us to the punch with their own Thanksgiving on the second Monday in October.
We started our series with episode 129, Thankful We Don’t Always Have to be Right, followed by Thankful We Can Make Memories in Episode 130. I’ll have links to each of these at the bottom of the show notes.
The story of one strong woman
Today we’re going to consider a story from the Bible that illustrates an important relational concept we can be thankful for. It’s found in the Gospel of Mark, chapter 14, verses 3-9.
3Meanwhile, Jesus was in Bethany at the home of Simon, a man who had previously had leprosy. While he was eating, a woman came in with a beautiful alabaster jar of expensive perfume made from essence of nard. She broke open the jar and poured the perfume over his head.
4Some of those at the table [i.e, disciples of Jesus, mostly men, including Judas Iscariot] were indignant. “Why waste such expensive perfume?” they asked.5″It could have been sold for a year's wages and the money given to the poor!” So they scolded her harshly.
6But Jesus replied, “Leave her alone. Why criticize her for doing such a good thing to me? 7You will always have the poor among you, and you can help them whenever you want to. But you will not always have me.8She has done what she could and has anointed my body for burial ahead of time. 9I tell you the truth, wherever the Good News is preached throughout the world, this woman's deed will be remembered and discussed.”
What caught my eye in this passage was the last line, 9… this woman's deed will be remembered and discussed. I remembered this story, as I’ve read it a number of times, but don’t ever recall discussing it.
Two sisters, different from each other
“Who’s talking about this story?” I wondered.
I then looked at parallel accounts in the other gospels and found the same story in John 12: 1-8 and Matthew 26: 6-13. These two accounts mention the woman in the story is named Mary. She happens to be the sister of Martha, both of whom are sisters of Lazarus. And this is how I found out who’s talking about this woman’s story.
It’s other women who are talking.
Countless women’s bible studies talk about Mary and her sister, Martha. We learn in other places in the gospels that Martha is the practical, task-oriented one, while Mary is the relational more feelings oriented sensitive sister. They both are poster children for being the person God created them to be.
There have been a gazillion sermons preached about their relationship, about the priority Mary placed on worshiping Jesus and relating with others, while her sister is slaving away in the kitchen. These sermons always elevate Mary's values over Martha, which really is the main point of this particular story: that our worship and relationship with Jesus are far more far important than our to-do list and completing tasks. I get that.
But there is a secondary part of this story that focuses on the character and personality of Mary that I find both interesting and encouraging. In Mary, we see someone who has learned that we can be thankful to be the person God created us to be.
Created to be different
God created Mary to be different from her practical, task-oriented sister, Martha, and to be different from the mostly male disciples who were equally pragmatic and practical as Martha when it came to how they spent their money.
In relating with Jesus, Mary was being the person God created her to be. That doesn’t mean she didn’t have things to work on in her life. But she was reflecting the character of God well. She was reflecting the hierarchy of God’s values in the story I read from the Gospel of Mark. God certainly values feeding the poor and being wise with our finances. But He values worshiping and honoring His son more.
Mary was comfortable enough in her own skin to be the person God created her to be in the face of criticism from others. It’s one thing to face opposition from outsiders, it’s another thing to get it from within your own tribe. From people whose worldview and mission in life is the same as yours, as in Mary’s case with her fellow Jesus followers, the disciples.
Mary was not a people pleaser, she had to stand up to her sister, and also to the crowd of men who were in the same room as she was in this story. They were all on the same team, yet they had differing values. She must have beena sensitive, yet strong woman to stand up to the peer pressure from these male disciples.
When we’re not the person God created us to be
In reflecting upon this story, it occurred to me that the cost of not being who God created you to be is high. There’s a loss when you try to be someone else because who you really are is lost to the world. The contribution God intends for you to make to the world doesn’t happen when you’re busy trying to be someone you’re not.
People who could have been blessed when you be the person God created you to be, miss out on that blessing.
We create a fertile field of relational dysfunction when we choose not to be the person God created us to be. One way we do this is by selling ourselves short with self-limiting attitudes and behaviors. We impose restrictions on ourselves that God never intended. We say “no” more than “yes” to opportunities to stretch ourselves in becoming the person God created us to be.
Another way we create relational dysfunction for ourselves is when we don’t respect the limits God placed within us. It’s when we think we can do it all, where we say “yes” more than we say “no” to choices that come our way. We ignore the relational principle of every time we say “yes” to something we are saying “no” to something else. It’s when we become a people pleaser, thinking our job is to make people happy, even if it’s beyond the limits God has set for us to do so.
All this happens when we choose not to be the person God created us to be. It is a choice.
So what does all this mean for YOU?
How can you use what you’ve heard today to improve the relationships in YOUR life? I would start with the great quote from Oscar Wilde who said, “Be yourself; everyone else is taken.”
There’s too much pressure to live under when we feel we have to be someone we’re not. There’s great freedom and joy that comes from resting in the fact we can be the person God created us to be.
Like Mary in the story we read, we can be thankful we don’t have to be like other people. Even like those close to us like family members or people we work with. The only person we need to please is Jesus. And He will show us how to do so, which may be completely different than the way he shows other people.
As long as we’re all on the same page with Jesus, We don’t have to be like others. And others don’t have to be like us.
Oh, and one last thought. Let’s not be like the disciples in the story I read in the beginning. Don’t make it difficult for others to be the person God created them to be. Be their cheerleader instead.
Here’s the main point I hope you remember from today’s episode
God created us in his image to reflect his character well, so be thankful we can be the person God created us to be, in whatever form that is.
I’d love to hear any thoughts you have about today’s episode. Just send them to me in an email to john [at] caringforothers [dot] org. Or you can share your thoughts in the “Leave a Comment” box at the bottom of the show notes.
I hope your thinking was stimulated by today’s show, to reflect on how you can be thankful to be the person God created you to be. And also to consider how you can help others be the person God created them to be. In doing so, you will find the joy God intends for you through your relationships. Because after all, You Were Made for This.
Well, that’s all for today. I look forward to connecting with you again next week. Goodbye for now.
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