Early last year I read this poem by Morgan Harper Nichols and it really stuck with me. As I began to pray for 2019, God drew me back to that poem but this time the word “unbridled” stuck out to me. To be totally honest, I had no idea what that word meant but here’s Google’s definition:
Unbridled – uncontrolled, unconstrained, not confined or restricted.
Essentially to be all in. When I think of an unbridled horse, I imagine it running freely in the wild, in whichever direction it so chooses and at full pace. One example of unbridled sacrifice is found in Mark 13:3-9. Here we read the story of the woman who poured a flask of ointment over Jesus’ head.
3 And while he was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he was reclining at table, a woman came with an alabaster flask of ointment of pure nard, very costly, and she broke the flask and poured it over his head. 4 There were some who said to themselves indignantly, “Why was the ointment wasted like that? 5 For this ointment could have been sold for more than three hundred denarii and given to the poor.” And they scolded her. 6 But Jesus said, “Leave her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. 7 For you always have the poor with you, and whenever you want, you can do good for them. But you will not always have me. 8 She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for burial. 9 And truly, I say to you, wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her.”
A couple of things stand out to me here:
She gave everything.
Even though we don’t know the name of the woman who poured the ointment over Jesus’ head, we can decipher that she had heard stories about Jesus. Whether she knew that He was God’s Son or our Saviour, she knew that he was worthy of such a costly sacrifice. She did not simply rub some perfume on his wrists so that he would smell a bit better, Luke says she broke her flask, ensuring that he would receive every last drop of what she had to offer. In that brokenness, Jesus tells those around him that her sacrifice was seen by the Father, and even foretells that her story would be told wherever the gospel is to be preached. Although we don’t know very much about her, some biblical commentaries suggest that this may have been the most expensive item this woman owned, her bride price or a family heirloom. Jesus actually wants our everything, not just our fancy things, but a real relationship with the depths of you. This passage shows us that even brokenness is a worthy sacrifice to him, it shows less dependence on our own efforts to be ‘good’ and more reliance on the power of God to see our heart.
People didn’t understand her.
Even in the beauty of her sacrifice, some who were gathered there and did not understand why she would ‘waste’ such a valuable commodity. In their eyes, her heart posture and sacrifice did not align with the position that they had mentally assigned to Jesus. Perhaps to them, he was no more than a good teacher or leader and their verdict was that her efforts to serve should have gone to the poor instead of conditioning Jesus’ hair. Through this passage, God is reminding us that not everyone will understand your sacrifice to Him, your faith, your praise may seem excessive or unnecessary to those who have not journeyed with you.
This Advent, I am journeying through the book of Luke and I am so in awe of the unbridled sacrifice of Mary. After a surprise message from an angel, one follow-up question and a contract for quite possibly the most important job ever given, Mary responds with “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” Like the woman with the alabaster jar, Mary had a personal revelation of who God was to her and she was prepared to give up the opinions of others to serve Him. In turn, that one moment of obedience and every choice after led to her raising the Son of God who would provide our salvation.
Now particularly to the woman who has been told to dial down the ‘Jesus talk’ in her day to day, in every expression of your worship to God, you must give unapologetically and without looking to those around you. Your worship is valuable, it reflects your relationship with the Father and it is so so pleasing to him (Psalm 34:4-5).
During this season of Advent, why not meditate on this passage from Luke chapter 1? It not only highlights Mary’s obedience to God but that of several others at the time. How can you live unbridled in 2020?