Allow me to share this experience I had with a few weeks ago visiting Martha and Mary.
Now let me tell you, these two woman are from worlds separate. Martha a southern bell spent her entire life working in the ministry. Martha’s presence was like you would expect it to be, warm and welcoming. I found conversation with Martha easy for she knew the religious jargon well and could spin a story with the best of them.
Mary on the other hand, well, let’s just say she was a little rough around the edges. She spent most of her adult life working with people that our society had long ago forgotten.
When she coughed the entire room shook so hard that I thought an earthquake had hit. Direct and to the point, this northerner told me all about her life working with prostitutes, inmates, the homeless, HIV/AIDS victims, and the dying. Although uncomfortable in her presence, I was awestruck by her life and stories.
Now to the unbelievable part. I feel like I have to prepare you, because of what both of these women shared with me. Mary called it a parousia experience. Martha, being southerner said it was a par-oui-sia. Either way, both of them told me that, get this, Jesus had visited them.
While visiting Martha the minister, I would have never of guessed it though. Upon crossing the threshold into her home I was overwhelmed by this sense of darkness. The outside of her house was gorgeous, and the inside even more beautiful. Her kitchen table sat overwhelmed with a feast, untouched and unchanged since it had been set. Gray engulfed the entire home though.
I don’t remember her home being like that the first time I had visited her.
I found Martha’s demeanor morose. You would’ve never been able to tell she was surrounded by such beauty by the way she moped around, dragging her feet as if the entire world sat upon her shoulders
She told me that she was broken hearted, surrounded by such goodness but unable to enjoy it.
I myself was utterly confused,
“what happened” I investigated.
Apparently, a man came to visit her, and upon his arrival everything around and in her experienced a renewal. Martha herself was in rapture over it all, until the man came closer. She said she slightly recognized his face, “uncomely and dirty” she put it.
There was no placing it though, for all she knew, he could have been the street beggar she walked past every day on her way to church. He might have even been the child who she had given money to through a compassion ministry. The closer the man got to Martha, she said the more confused and uncomfortable she felt.
When the man finally spoke, the cloud was lifted from her eyes.
“Are you?” she muttered,
With those words, the realization sprung forth of who this man was. Martha’s head fell into her hands. She was ashamed she couldn’t recognize and in actuality felt at unease in the presence of the Son of Man. Her entire life devoted to understanding him, but never being with him it seems, so in the end, come to find out, she hardly knew Jesus.
She told me she struggled to find conversation and to even look at Jesus, because he felt like such a stranger to her, she told me she felt like,…I think it was… a goat or an ass.
I left Martha’s home overwhelmed with a sense of dread. It felt as if that place would have been better burnt to the ground then to sit in such hellish despair despite its beauty.
In the midst of trying to think through Martha’s story, I decided to go see Mary.
Her place too though, seemed oddly different. It was as if Extreme Makeover had taken Mary’s home and made it glorious. Unlike Martha’s, the door to Mary’s home was open so I just welcomed myself in.
I was taken a bit off guard by the party and the noise coming from the kitchen. People of all kinds sat around her table feasting on the bounty. One would have thought Thanksgiving had come early
Mary, in her direct way came over to me and simply told me, “he had come.”
“I’m sorry,” I retorted, “ who had come.”
“Well at first, I wasn’t sure. I thought it was Ed from down at the HIV clinic. Then I just knew it had to Jacky, my friend who lives underneath I35. But, I assure you, he wasn’t either, and he was both.”
She went on, “and as surely as you are confused by that, well, I know it was Jesus. “
“When I first saw him, I started making all kinds of noise thinking I was yelling out to one of my friends, but the closer he got the more I felt like I knew him, but not quite. You know I had seen and talked to him everyday on the streets of this city, so when he told me his name was Jesus, well I just figured that it was Jacky…see because she thinks she’s the Messiah.”
“You should have seen us, there I was talking to about 4 different people I thought I knew from off the streets and just couldn’t place it…and there Jesus was trying to convince me that he wasn’t really any of those people, and yet he was.”
Well, it wasn’t until I realized that I hadn’t coughed since the man showed up, that I began to notice what had happened. See, these old bones and this old house took on a new life. And with that revelation, well, I just believed. Jesus had visited me.”
I myself, still don’t know what to think of all this, but I do wonder if I would recognize the face of God if he begged for my attention.