The Alabaster Jar

Day 1 of 5 • This day’s reading


Utter Exposure 

I will never forget staying with ‘my lady’ in Cambodia on my first trip with Tearfund because she changed my life forever. She’s called ‘my lady’ because, to my shame, I struggled to say her name in Khmer and thus haven’t retained it. But ‘my lady,’ a title of respect, sums up what she was like.  

She had no latrine. You just had to go in the field. There was one hand-water pump in the village that gave out greenish, slimy water, which the whole village drank, but not me. She had a single light in her bamboo hut, powered by a car battery. She cooked the most wonderful meals over an open fire. 

But there was something very special about ‘my lady.’ She was HIV positive. She had contracted this from her husband, who had been away to work for long periods of time and had brought the disease home to their lovemaking. He had died some years before. She showed me his photograph. The frame was carefully and lovingly decorated with paper flowers. 

And because of her status every night ‘my lady’ had this ritual. 

In front of that photograph, in the light of that bare bulb, she put on her glasses that she had fashioned out of bent wire and couple of loose lens; she opened her Bible and read out loud the passage she had chosen; and then, carefully, ever so carefully, she took her antiviral medicine. Then she paused silently, bowed her head and prayed. 

And somehow in the semi darkness with her glasses, her Bible and her medicine, I had witnessed redemption. Life in the midst of death. 

When I think about Mary anointing Jesus, this is the powerful sense that comes to me, utter exposure—worship that’s like having your guts ripped out. The full meaning of the word ‘worship’ in the ancient Greek means something like “going forward for a kiss.” When Jesus calls us into worship, he calls us into an intimate deep personal connection with him. From ‘My lady’ and Mary, we see it demands nothing less than your whole self, your entire person-hood, and your life. Poured out, utterly exposed. 

As you reflect on their stories, pray that we too will learn to worship in this way.