It was a day not unlike any other.
Dirt clung to the heels of the people who passed in the street and in the public places. Flies gathered around dogs’ ears and water splashed as it poured from the well into jars. There were silent, knowing glances exchanged between parents over the heads of children, laughing at the magic of their play.
Jesus walked into a village called Nain on a day like this.
He heard the teasing of schoolboys, saw smiling women embrace in warm hugs, and caught wind of the ancient smell of cooking fires, already lit for lunch preparation. He felt his friends around him, kicking up a thick cloud of dust as they walked together. I imagine them enjoying themselves, for the day itself seemed to agree that all was well and that life was rich, though often so ordinary.
Until another sound permeated the noise of the day. The sound of weeping.
It must have occurred to them somewhat suddenly amidst the crowds and the bustle – like things sometimes do to us in a way that makes the smiles, the laughter and jesting so appropriate for everyday seem like a harsh intrusion. I wonder if the grin slid slowly from his face as recognition of the sound dawned on his consciousness.
We know what happened next, right? The widow, for whom that day was anything but common, approached wailing a heartbroken cry at heaven and earth. I’m not implying that she approached intentionally. In fact, I think she probably didn’t. She was walking and she was mourning. Those may have been the only things of which she was aware. If she had any expectation of Jesus, it is not recorded in the Scripture. But she wept – oh my, how she must have wept – that much we do know. As Jesus surveyed the situation, understanding dawned on him slowly, and his heart broke with hers.
We know that he touched the lifeless body of her beloved – so still there, awaiting burial. And that the pulse of life returned.
End of beautiful story.
There are those (and I have been among them, yes) who would draw a plain line between the text of Scripture and its exact and irrefutable meaning. Those who would walk you to story after story, making them each a parable of their own, from which we the readers are expected to draw some kind of moralistic application for the betterment of our lives. The assumption is that certitude can be reached by the discovery of each fable’s meaning, which often lies obviously tucked into the bottom line of the narrative.
I’m not sure I’m down with that anymore.
Because people like to say that Jesus only comes to those who make room for Him, that He responds to those who call on Him, and if a person – even a widow in her darkest hour – would not lift her face His way, that He would somehow be impeded in doing of what He did best: good. I understand that there are other Bible stories which might engender such a view, but when I look at the widow of Nain and watch the situation unfold between her searing grief and that Carpenter from Nazareth on the dusty street that ordinary day, I can’t help but question such a conclusion.
I wonder at the places in my life that blink No Vacancy in garish neon. I wonder at that little town of Bethlehem in which He was met with the same sign. I wonder at the portrait of a tear-stained God holding out His hands all day to a stubborn people who want none of Him. For aren’t we, all of us, a people who have no room for Him?
And yet He came. Where He wasn’t wanted, wasn’t asked for, wasn’t sought.
Perhaps the Kingdom of Heaven does come to the bold and the brave, to the striving and the staunch, who ask for it and storm the gates and seek with all their heart. But perhaps there are also times when it comes looking for you. And for me. We who are in a place like Nain with hearts too weighted by the pain of life on planet Earth to lift them heavenward. Maybe we have these places in our lives to remind us that grace never ever comes to the deserving, for to do so would be to deny itself by very definition, but to the needy.
Perhaps more than any tidy conclusion or neatly packaged systematic answer, smacked with a theological bow, what we gather from bits and pieces of the stories that have been left for us is that the Kingdom of Heaven comes. On the hump days of our most monotonous weeks. With the ins and outs of all the stuff of life at its most benign. In the scoops of vanilla and the peanut butter sandwich places.
It comes. He comes. And perhaps we learn to trust – not in spite of – but because of the holy mystery in which we live.
“They all realized they were in a place of holy mystery,
that God was at work among them.”
Luke 7:16 MSG
This is so encouraging. There should be nothing burdensome about Good News. It should carry only the scent of freedom and joy. This story you’ve shared today? Good news. Good news, indeed.
Oh, how I agree with all you said above, Christie. Thank you for hearing the heart behind the words here.
This story of Jesus entering this woman’s grief brings so much comfort. There are times when he has required my steps of faith and my choice to live or to fight… but there are those moments as well where love pursued and caught up to me uninvited, and it is those moments that make me fall to my knees in gratitude because I can own no part of the glory. I can only rest in that love that is so much greater than me.
“Rest in that love that is so much greater than me.” Yes. That.
Thanks for your thoughtful comment, friend.
Amen! and let the Spirit and the bride say “come Lord Jesus”
Thank you for reading, Karin.
A good, and much needed, word(s).
I know what you mean, Tammy. Sometimes God has the audacity to speak TO me, even as He’s speaking THRU me … I needed this personally as much as I needed to give it.
Beautiful…I was found by Grace when I didn’t even consciously know I was looking…but I have come to believe our hearts communicate our desires maybe better than our words…God knows our hearts and sometimes He answers the hearts cry before we can even give words to those desires.
A beautiful perspective, Ro. I love the way you think. 😉
Thanks for being here. You bless.
I’m comforted by your words, Kelli. I agree that sometimes Jesus pursues us even when we reject or miss Him and for that I am so very grateful!
Yes. Oh, it’s so very good to see your face here, Beth! Thank you for stopping by to read and for leaving a comment to let me know you did. Blessings.
Kelly, I love how you awaken old words and turn them, consider them from a slant. I’ve never thought of the widow approaching Jesus in this way, friend. I am greatly comforted by the grace of the great mystery here, reminded once again that I don’t have to get all my stuff together to experience this holy, tender, pursuing God in the everyday. Yes, yes — what Good News!
I think I almost NEED to look at the old words slant sometimes, Ashley. Otherwise … well, they just get OLD.
Perhaps there’s some truth to this: “Human imagination is not simply our means of reaching out to God, but God’s means of manifesting Himself to us.” (C.Wiman) I think creating a few extra-biblical details can be a very invigorating and life-giving thing sometimes. Like God weaving a new story out of the old.
Thanks for your words, my friend.
I pray God’s ways and personality never fit inside a box of my own making, the thought of that is repulsive. May we always embrace the mystery and find freedom there. Your writing is always so breathtaking. Loved this.
Oh, I know those boxes far too well. But it’s at least partly the MYSTERY – not the lack thereof – that keeps us coming back for more and holds our feet to the fire called “trust”, don’t you think?
Thanks for your words here, Shelly.
This is so good, Kelli. I was thinking along these lines this morning, but you just made everything really clear. Great insight of truth.
So kind of you to say so, Lelia! Thank you for reading and for connecting here. Blessings.
Why is it that some of my favorite stories are those Bible stories that are told and re-told to emphasize His love and grace for us? Guess my soul was made for these!
Thanks for telling the story once again, and with grace as the subject!
Funny thing … me too – those stories seem a balm to the scorched places somehow. Thanks for your kind words here, Mom. Always.
This story always speaks resurrection to me. When I think about the widow and he her only son–and I imagine how Jesus gave her her life back and what that must have felt like…it makes me look at all the dead places in my own life and bring them to Him. Sometimes I forget to do that.
Yes, I think there is a very real way in which she did get HER life back, too, didn’t she? Thanks for sharing your perspective, Laura. You are a kindred spirit.
This is beautiful. And to picture our Savior seeing the brokenhearted woman, too sorrowful to even look up, His heart breaking with hers, and moved to touch and heal and show Himself Merciful, Compassionate is truly Good News.
Reminders of THAT kind of Good News can be few and far between someday, eh? I needed this one, too.
Thank you for being such a faithful encourager to me, Paula.
Yes. And so beautifully put, Kelli. Thank you. <3
What you are saying is so true!! I have often read the same parable or Bible verse over and over again, but only what God revealed to my heart every time has had a lasting impression. He knows what we need to know and are able to receive like the talents! We can rest assured that we don’t need to know it all. I for one am so glad that grace can just be received for free for otherwise there was no hope for me.
“We can rest assured that we don’t need to know it all.”
oh, friend. this thought comforts me more over and over – more than i can say here. thank you for stopping by, Mia.
I so needed this tonight, Kelli. I too believe that He comes looking for us too–and that our finding Him isn’t always about our actions, but rather His, the way he pursues that one lost sheep…We wander, and we shrink back from grace, but He comes looking for us–He comes with intention, He comes to bring us back to life. Beautiful words, lady. Just beautiful. XO
Being found is the most wonderful thing in the world. Thanks for connecting with the heart of this post, Kris. You’re such a gem.
“His heart broke with hers…” I am seeing a theme here. Several bloggers have written things recently about God “breaking our hearts for what breaks His.” (Yes, that’s also from a worship song.) Cherry says her husband prays this everyday. I began to pray it also. Two days ago, I boldly ministered to a woman whose son committed suicide three years ago & she fears for her only remaining son. ABSOLUTELY no judgement coming from me, but only empathy as if I were in her shoes. And fervent prayers for her & her remaining son. Let us keep praying that He breaks our hearts for what breaks His, then let us walk among those in our community & bring the marvelous hope & healing that we have in Jesus. Love & prayers, Cynthia
Oh, a thousand amens to this, Cynthia. Bless you. May you continue to carry around the fragrance of Jesus wherever you go.