If I could take you there with me as if we were sitting down for coffee with Mary of Magdala…and we asked her about her transformation. Ya know, what was that like???? We want details don’t we? I mean, we know when details aren’t helpful, right? We know when not to ask something, or tell something….but really, we crave deep meaningful conversation and we want the whole story…… but what if she began this way to our question….. “What was it like, Mary?”
“I’ll never forget the first time I heard his voice…
“Mary?” Who said that? Did someone say my name? My name….my name…my name…my name is Mary! I can’t remember the last time anyone had spoken my name. Maybe my mama…I think she was the last one. I hadn’t heard anyone say what my mama called me in years… Oh, how I used to love it when she’d say my name…when I was in my soft place…all wrapped up in the quilts she had sewn for me, and that pillow she had stuffed for me. Hand plucked feathers from the goose we got to eat that one festival. Warm and safe. I would always be warm and safe…. waking to her whisper sweet. “Mary…the sun rose for you today, can you feel it’s warmth?” It’s like my name was all oiled up and softened in a mama-kiss before it ever left her lips. If I didn’t know better, I’d say I was her favorite. Mama and I, we were inseparable. She always made me feel so safe…from the older kids that teased me, the man who tried to touch me and smelled like old grapes and smoke and dirty…and from….well, from the dark ones. I can’t remember when they came. They just showed up one day and I remember telling mama about them, cuz I could tell her anything and she’d believe me too. She always said, “sweet, oh sweet, don’t be afraid to say what’s hiding all the way down where you can’t see but only feel…right down here where it gets all twisted tied up and stuck” (motioning to her stomach), even if its the scariest thing you’ve ever done.” So I told her one day….I see them in my dreams…and I’m so scared, mama…they are always after me, chasing me in the dark, and its cold and you aren’t there…and I keep screaming for someone to save me but the sound went deaf and no one can hear me!
“They’re not real, Mary. Its just a nightmare….And when God cracks open the night and pours the light of shining into it…and the heat of it kisses you here and here as she kissed my toes and my nose…they’ll go away. My sweet Mary…”.
For a while all I had to do was remember mama’s words….and wait for the morning, and she was right. It’s like the light scattered them and they’d run off just before dawn. They were frightened from the God- light.
Time kept pushing years into me, stretching skin and shape into my girl-like body and imaginative mind. I had met and formed relationships with so many interesting people in the buzz of our market square. I was so creative and skilled with dyeing the well-sought after textiles and fabrics in our family business. Oh how I loved watching people travel for miles to see my designs. In this I took great delight. And so it was for a season. A season of life, success, status and prosperity. My world was so multi-colored and beaming with life the dark dancers had stayed behind the curtain hung in my mind dividing the stage between performance and reality.
I forgot about them until one night they came back. I didn’t get much sleep that night, they’re shadows dripping a slow dance like drunken ghosts reeling and stumbling in and out of my dreams. And when the morning came, it was still dark. Where was the light God was supposed to pour into the cracked open night? Where was the heat on my face? I peered outside and saw the townfolk bustling about in their everyday affairs….they were in the light, why wasn’t I in the light? So I pretended I was in the light as I joined them and that worked for a few days….but then I got so confused, the dark ones crept in and stole sleep right out of the song that mama used to sing me to get me to the safe place. And oh how my body burned and buzzed. Like flames licking at raw skin. I was so sick. My heart that used to slow to the rhythm of mama’s songs I had remembered, and my man’s strong and gentle hands as they rubbed my weary shoulders from the water jugs…. just ached and raced now. They stole my breath and there was no peace in my bones. Food repulsed me and my teeth began to rot. No matter how hard I tried to shut my eyes I could see them and hear them…..screaming their taunts, like shrieks, drowning out unspoken cries that couldn’t get past that place….the deep place… my sanity dripping away with each tear…drip, drip, drip……. washing away. As long as I could cry, I knew I was still alive. My tears were like a healing rain to my shriveling soul, but when they finally ran out, I knew I was dead..
Things got so bad I wasn’t safe anymore. I couldn’t remember who I was. Where I came from. who I belonged to. I was dirty, so dirty. My head itched from the lice that had taken up nests in the matts of my hair, and the sores on my scalp and leftover gnawed skin….they oozed and stunk. People were so afraid of me…I was afraid of me…and the voices never stopped. Sometimes I ran screaming covering my ears trying to drown out the shrieking shadows, but that only made people run far away from me and scurry their children out of my crazed path. They threw food at me sometimes like the feral dogs…the ones I slept with for heat. The ones that licked my left-over broken skin…
day after day I screamed and I could no longer decipher if it was the dark ones or my own screaming being released from the twisting in my deep…..my whole body was in agony and I moaned along to their ancient hypnotic song…..
Torment never left me and if the torment inside of me wasn’t enough, the stabs from the daggered looks of faded from memory friends and kind neighbors, who now shunned my very presence, deepened my anguish. I was worse than the lepers, they had each other. I had no one….but the dark ones.
Mary…there it is again! Who is it? Stop taunting me!
“wait….say it again, please….it sounded like safe….say it again….please….”
Mary…… I was blinded from the blazing light….
“its shining in that sound…..please say it again? It sounds like…like you know me….
nobody knows me anymore, its been a long time since I went away.”
Mary…. this time louder….
more light! can it be?!? I haven’t seen light since I can remember!
Mary, I have always known you….I gave your mama your name….I was there when she held your naked slippery skin still wet from her womb and in a barely whisper breathed out your name on you.
can you hear me, Mary? I told the dark ones to be quiet. They have no more authority over you.
“You can’t have her, she let us in! She’s done too much, hurt too many people, she will never be free! They will never accept her, not now, not ever! Her reputation is that of a mad woman! No one will let her come near them!”
Be quiet! and return from whence you came. You no longer hold any power over this lamb for I hold the power of heaven and earth and all authority has been given to Me! This Mary you have tormented for this short time, belongs to the king of Kings and Lord of Lord’s and you will never visit her again. Be gone.
and then He ROARED….and in the wake of His mighty roar…
Fear fell off like a weight of a thousand rocks shattering the earth below…
Unloved lept from its strangling grip on my heart and disappeared into the light…
Shame slid like scales from my eyes and their singed remains vanished in the fire of His gaze…
Sickness limped away crooked and disfigured….
Lies, screamed in torment covering its ears at the deafening roar….and fell silent.
Death loosed its grip and no longer summoned me….
Pride hung its head in shame and bowed in subjection to this Mighty King before me ….
Suddenly, I remembered who I was! I could see! I could think! Tranquility ran like a healing balm over my mind, soul and body….my flesh wounds closed up and my heart slowed to the rhythm of unfamiliar love, yet I recognized it as the love I had longed for my whole life….Love had awakened me! He spread His robe over me and covered my exposed nakedness, dressed my wounds, gently lifted me from the ground below us and drew my eyes into the heat of His gaze….and then He smiled the delight of a thousand smiles and said,
Mary…sweet mary…The Son rose on your darkness today…follow me.