Elizabeth Before: Lessons on Outpour from Two Marys
Updated: Aug 4, 2021
She stepped up behind him and stood with the jar in her hand. Within a couple of moments every mouth was silent and every eye wide as they watched her nervous fingers remove the ornate cover. Only Jesus was unaware of her presence. Just as he noticed everyone looking behind him, she began to pour. Over his head. Over his shoulders. Down his back. She would have poured herself out for him if she could.”
-Max Lucado, The Final Week of Jesus, page 32
This month, and the slow moments that led to it, has been the best of my life.
Strange thing to say, considering my anxiety, my hypersensitive nervous system, whatever its name, has kept me awake, drenched me in sweat and fear. But I’ve also been kept awake by all of the things I’ve done, and the things I have yet to do. This month, I’ve felt drenched in music and love, drenched in You.
Late June, I spent a weekend in Gig Harbor with Laura, one of my closest and dearest friends. We sat out on the deck of my grandparent’s beach house until the sky bruised and we could see stars. We cried and prayed and held each other’s hands, held each other’s fears and hopes, and when my heart beat like a bird in my chest, I felt God’s hand there, and she held that for me, too, the Sound smooth as glass. Earlier this month, I visited my cousin in New Mexico. The trip was overwhelming after a year of no travel, no big things. When I could not sleep and my heart was overwhelmed with wingbeats, I listened to music, I prayed, fell into You. Days were spent reading Henri Nouwen "The Inner Voice of Love," journaling by her pool, sometimes swimming, my body a clean white arc in a spray of jeweled water. We ate green chili burgers and chicken burritos. We met up with Laura, who was visiting her dad, and hiked together among cacti in desert-heat.
One night, Em, her boyfriend Nolan and I walked to my grandparent’s old church in Los Alamos. On the walk, Nolan let me use his phone to do a free write. His kindness was so noble, so good, just like Emmy’s faithful presence, her listening heart that held my words the moment I spoke them. When we went to Santa Fe, I stood beneath ristras and bought a turquoise ring I lost a couple weeks later at the Seattle aquarium with Vince and Melissa, my writer-intern friends who taught me how to listen to poetry. Now, that ring floats among the anemones and purple urchins and moon jellies. I met with my dear writing group in Saltwater Park, and we skipped stones and shared words. Just last week, my friends Jennifer and Andrea walked with me through my neighborhood in Magnolia, our fingers dripping ice cream as we spilled over with laughter, and the three of us stood at the top of the street, looking out over the city. I remember all of these places I walked with these people. I go back, walk the road again, return to the church in Los Alamos at 6am, sleepless for all I had missed. I return and see white lilies on the stained-glass window, and know that You see me, that I am known.
These paths I’ve walked, the places I’ve been and the people I’ve been there with, have taught me that anxiety is a part of joy.
Fear flows into joy, a river clear and true and cutting.
The story of Mary, Lazarus’s sister, has always drawn me to it. With Jesus in her house, she breaks open her alabaster jar, the most valuable thing she has, to be saved for her brideprice, and pours oil over his weary feet. I love how Max Lucado describes her "nervous fingers." After anointing him, Mary washes his feet with her tears, dries them with her hair.
“She would have poured herself out for him if she could,” Lucado wrote. Mary embodies the mutual outpour of our relationship with God that does not come without fear. She breaks open everything she has, binds herself to him in an act of service, pours out her deepest needs at his feet. Profoundly human and profoundly broken, fearful and seeking, she anoints him. And he calls her chosen, pours all of his love back into her so she can go forth and tell of it.
Now, I break open my life, the most valuable thing I have. I’m at his feet, except my tears are dry, replaced with joy and dancing and a different kind of outpour.
Music is such evidence of the mutual outpour that is our relationship with God. “Lord Send Revival” by Hillsong has a chorus that goes like this:
Come Holy Spirit rain down on me Break open the heavens and drench the unseen Pour out Your presence as I pour out Your praise Come Holy Spirit Lord have Your way
And “Isaiah Song,” by Maverick City:
My emptiness is my offering
What was a barren season
Is giving birth right now
As I write, my roommate, Diaa, plays guitar. It floats to where I am, spreading like open roses. The songs of this season speak of barrenness and birth, emptiness and fullness, of water and of need. A soundtrack to our life with God.
These songs, this month drenched in friends and music, has instilled in me, so quiet and true, that You came back for us. Blue, blue as blood God’s son came gasping from the womb, held us in his eye, the earth a tear streaked with ruin, and cried out “it is finished.”
And my month has been filled with the realization, and I am full to spilling. Over each body in the story of God, I hover, seeing myself in their human postures--Mary, pouring out her tears and her worth, her life. John, leaping for joy in Elizabeth’s womb. Mary, mother of God, singing the Magnificat, poem and prophesy, pouring hope over the world.
Most of all, I feel like Elizabeth before.
Elizabeth stands at the margins of the story of God, cousin to Mary and mother to John the Baptist. I feel like Elizabeth before the birth of her son who would prophesy the One, who would meet him in the water. I feel like Elizabeth standing before the girl who carries God inside of her, Elizabeth who hears God’s promise in a song and can’t help but cry out: in fear, joy. Both.
Come late September, I will train with Pongo, an org in Seattle, to facilitate poetry-writing with teen BIPOC girls. Be the one who stands before them, friend and witness. I will learn from these girls by simply receiving the wellspring of wisdom already in them, witness oil stream from their alabaster jars and drench us all in song.
And what a joy this will be. I could leap with it.