What a revealing line, there toward the beginning of Luke’s story about a woman who anointed Jesus’ feet with oil while he was at dinner in the home of a religiously elite man. She showed up with a bottle of oil and cried tears of devotion and used her hair as a towel. A messy, emotional, intense scene. But this line tells me she was no basketcase. This was a deliberate choice of place and audience; she was there in that religious home to preach a sermon.
I saw this same sermon preached by Trisha and Billy, a couple I’ve recently met who have adopted seven children with special needs. Seven children to take in, foster and eventually make their own. Their “heart,” as they call her, is Tyiesha, a child shaken so severely as a baby that she can no longer move anything beneath her chin. Ty was abandoned to a hospital ICU and when the family stopped showing up, they called Trish to come and rock this paralyzed infant. To hold her so she’d know she’s human.
When Ty was seven months old, Trish and Billy took her home.
Now, twelve years later, they are still caring for Ty who still has no feeling or movement beneath her chin. Billy and Trish love her the way everyone deserves to be loved, and even though it meant significant financial risk, they eventually adopted her. “She is ours,” Trish says. “She belongs to us.”
Ty is really sick these days, at home in hospice care. She may not make it till Christmas. Trish stands by her bed and strokes her hair, smiles and says, “There’s a person in there. She has preferences and moods and a personality. And she is our heart.”
In their care for Ty, Trish and Billy are preaching a sermon about how Jesus loves. When we are utterly helpless to save ourselves, when we have been shaken to a broken state, he takes us in. When our only chance is grace, Jesus takes us in. When we are hard to know, he knows us. When it costs, he adopts us. Jesus holds onto us until we understand what it means to be human.
He doesn’t wait for us to get well. He starts where we are and right there, in that dark place, he says, “She belongs to me. This one is ours.”
It’s the same sermon that woman preached in the Pharisee’s house, with her tears and oil, as she knelt beside Jesus and proved to the world that she was a friend of God.