A meditation on the story of the Anointing in Bethany (John 12:1-8)

by Rose Feerick

Mary took a pound of costly perfume made of pure spikenard, anointed Jesus’ feet, and  wiped them with her hair.  The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.  Jn 12:3

Spikenard:  This oil brings light into the darkness.  Earth Alchemy by Candice Covington

It was dark and stormy when I headed to the coast.  Reason told me I should stay home and head out in the morning.  But the sound of rain and the gift of time called me to head back to the wilderness for my weekly time of Sabbath. 

I tried calling the lodge where I sometimes rent a tent cabin, but no one picked up.

An hour later, I was driving over fallen eucalyptus branches on the driveway to the lodge. The wiry, over stimulated energy I’ve been feeling since returning from New York gave way to a more grounded fatigue.  I was ready to get under the covers, listen to the wind, rain, and ocean and rest.

I was taken aback, therefore, when the front desk clerk told me the resort was closed for the night for an employee party.  “But…but, I’m here,” my insides protested.  “I most definitely heard God beckon and I came.  What do you mean I can’t check in?” 

I did not say any of that out loud.  Instead, I smiled, wished the receptionist well at the party, and headed back to my car.

Sitting in the deep dark that I love, I considered my options.  I could head home. Though I was tired, I knew I could make the hour drive.    I checked the vacancies in Half Moon Bay, 30 minutes away.  None of them appealed.  I could sleep in my car. 

I pulled out of the driveway and headed north, not sure what to do.  A few miles down the road, the light of Pigeon Point Lighthouse circled.  I knew that there is a hostel there and considered checking it out.  No.   It would not be open now.  This section of coast is so far from the 24 hour culture of the world. There was no way the hostel would be open at 10 pm.

Anger started to rise.   “God, I came. How could you shut the door?”

The lighthouse was getting closer.  Another part wondered whether this might be exactly what God had in mind. 

“Check it out.”

“It’s going to be closed.”

“Go and see.” 

I’ve been meaning to try out the hostel for months.  But I had found the other lodge and liked it.  This is my pattern.  I find something I like and I stick with it.  Recently, I have been wondering whether that habit might be a way I avoid the vulnerability of the unknown and the grace that can be found there.

I turned left into the hostel driveway. 

As soon as I stepped out of my car, I was captivated by the light circling in the night sky.  From the road, it looks like a single light.  Up close, I could see four distinct beams moving out into the dark.  I felt like I was standing in the center of a star.  I breathed in the wind, rain and delight of being so near the ocean.

Outside the office, a sign said they were open until 10:30 pm.  I couldn’t believe it.   When I opened the door, Bruce Springsteen, my favorite musician, was playing on the radio.  A beautiful young woman welcomed me. 

 “Do you have any vacancy?” I asked, still expecting to hear no.

“Yes,” she said.  “We have a dorm room available.  Or, if you prefer privacy, we also have a single room.”

I smiled. 

She wanted to know what brought me out on a dark and stormy night.  I tried to explain how I moved to the city and how my body still longs for wilderness.

“I get it,” she said.  “Welcome home.”

In room 1, I could not help but delight in the gift.  Earlier in the evening, I had gathered with a few friends in my home to sit with the story of the Anointing in Bethany.

Mary’s story and her offering of extravagant love claimed my life several years ago.  Though I pray with it often, every time I see something new.   Tonight, I was imagining the warmth and joy Jesus might have felt in being received into the home of friends.  I also noticed how easy it is for me to feel Mary’s gesture of extravagant love in my body, especially after years of caring for children.  Giving like that comes easy for me.

Much harder is receiving the love that is offered freely to me.

Sometimes I can’t receive it.  I jump to paying gifts back or offering something equally wonderful in return.  Other times, my resistance is subtler and I simply do not see how much is given freely and with great love.

But every now and then a gift is so unexpected and so obvious that all I can do is smile and receive the gift. 

Like a warm room in a lighthouse on a dark and stormy night or the touch of a friend’s hand.

photo credit:  Jeff Parry Photography   www.jeffparryphotography.com


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