Emma Tanner

A Work in Progress

Beneath your Beautiful

on March 29, 2013


This week is Holy Week. Along with Christians around the world I’ve been reflecting on Jesus’ journey to the cross, beginning with the celebrations and expectation of Palm Sunday, through quiet reflection as we remember the Last Supper on Maundy Thursday, leading to sombre recollection and marking of the crucifixion today on Good Friday.

The year since last Easter has been an eventful one for me, and one that has deepened my relationship with my saviour Jesus. I have spent more time with him, listened to him, learnt more about him. I’ve been privileged to see him at work in many situations, including my own life. Gently, gently he’s been stripping away layers from me that have taken years to build up, like layers of wallpaper in an ancient house. Layers of self-sufficiency. Layers of putting my trust in things other than him. Layers of identifying myself according to my profession or role, not as the precious daughter of my daddy in heaven.

This week I have sensed Jesus nudging me to be real. To be real with him. To be real with my friends and family, and the world at large.  I tend to be a sunny side up, glass-half-full sort of person.  I am a coper. From a young age I became accustomed to taking the problems of others on myself, and trying to fix things for them, and make things better. Along with that I started to keep my own problems and anxieties to myself. I figured that it wasn’t fair to burden those already struggling with issues of their own with my concerns too. I became pretty self-reliant. I didn’t really talk to anyone about the things that were bothering me. And those habits became deeply ingrained. I would listen to people talk about their problems, and instinctively would try to find and focus on the positives. I’d try to encourage, all the time. I thought that compared to what they were going through, the anxieties and issues in my life were trivial, and not worth sharing.

This led to a few difficulties. There were several people in my life with lots of problems. I couldn’t fix them, even if they’d wanted to be fixed. They didn’t appreciate my relentless cheerfulness; they didn’t want to see the positives. It seemed as though they were looking at me and thinking “It’s all right for you! What do you have to be worried about? If I had your life, I’d be happy too!” This felt to me at the time like a rejection of me and the person I was. It really hurt. Then I heard the gentle, whispering voice of Jesus saying that it’s OK to be honest. It’s good to be real. We need to be prepared to show other people our real selves, and not hide behind the masks we love to wear. This doesn’t have to mean constantly grumbling and moaning. It doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t try to find the good in every situation. But it does mean that we need to admit that we struggle too. To share with each other when things don’t go according to plan, as well as when they do. And it means that- shock, horror! I need to be prepared to be humble enough to receive from other people. To admit that I can’t do it on my own.

This was brought home to me exquisitely last night, at a Maundy Thursday service. We were remembering the act of service that Jesus performed for his disciples at the Last Supper: he washed their feet. He was present at the creation of the universe, he was the Son of God, the Saviour of the World, but he took it upon himself to do the task that everyone else had turned their noses up at- he’d got down on his knees, rolled up his sleeves and washed away the dirt and dust from the hot, sweaty feet of his followers. That’s the kind of King he is- a Servant King. In his kingdom, the last will be first, the greatest will be least, the humble will be made great.

It is telling that this was the first service of this kind that I’ve been to. In the past I had fiercely resisted the very idea of someone washing my feet. I would have been much more comfortable doing the washing. But this week, I responded to the still, small voice telling me that I really needed to go. I had my feet washed by one of the leaders of the church. It was profoundly moving. In the stillness afterwards, listening to beautiful music being played on the harp, Jesus seemed closer and more real to me than ever before. I realised that it was good, it was necessary, to be served, as well as to serve. To admit that I need help. To admit that I cannot save myself. To acknowledge afresh that that is why Jesus had to die, and to overflow with gratitude for his ultimate act of sacrificial obedience as he died in my place.

So as I look ahead to the promise and excitement of Easter Sunday, I commit to being real. To letting people see me as I truly am, warts and all. To sharing my failures with my friends, as well as my successes. To admit when I get things wrong, and celebrate when things go well. Let’s take off our masks. In the words of Labrinth/Emile Sande, who express it far more eloquently than I can, let’s allow each other to see beneath our beautiful.


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