When a woman who had led a "sinful life" heard that Jesus was having dinner in town, she crashed the party. Bold as she was, she did not approach him face-to-face. Instead, she stood behind him as he reclined at the table, tears streaming down her face. Then, forgetting what all the well-to-do people thought, she fell to her knees, kissing his feet, drenching them with her tears and wiping them with her tangled hair. As she took her alabaster jar of costly perfume and anointed the very skin of Christ, I can imagine her thinking:
What a mess I’ve made of the life you gave me . . . what a mess I am! All I can give you now is this little bit of beauty I’ve got left: my broken shame-filled heart. I don’t care what they think! All I care is what you think, Jesus . . . You. It’s me and you here now. Will you wash me? Will you wash off all the dirt and grime and polish me with the oil of you? Will you make me new?
The courage to get real with Jesus is breathtakinginly beautiful. You cannot create this kind of beauty with makeup and stylish clothes. This is the kind that can not be fabricated; it is so authentic, so raw that it makes us uncomfortable . . . it scares us.
Our other main character in this scene, Simon, is absolutely revolted by this woman’s poor behavior at his dinner party. He is a Pharisee, who is categorically more interested in having the perfect image than the perfect heart. If Jesus were really a prophet, he thinks, He would know that this woman is a sinner!
Jesus had just finished explaining to these "experts" of religious law that he did not come to save the healthy, but the sick. He didn’t come for the perfect! He came for imperfect; he came for her.
If they were such "experts," they should have known 1 Samuel 16:7, which says man looks at the outward appearance, but God looks at the heart. In Matthew 23, Jesus rants and raves against their hypocrisy, calling them "white-washed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead-man’s bones." They wore a perfect mask, hiding ugliness underneath it all. And Jesus could see right through them.
So does he reject her for her brazen behavior? Her past? Her sexual sin? No. He does not look at the outward appearance. He sees her heart — broken, messy, real, and it is beautiful to him.
Instead of explaining this to Simon outright, he tells him a story about two people with canceled debts, saying that the one with the bigger debt is more grateful than the one with the smaller. This woman had a big debt; she had a lot to be forgiven; she had a large burden, and a lot to be grateful for, like me. But she was real, and the rawness of her love endeared her to him.
The perfect image never did it for Jesus. The image he loved was the one that was crumbling, the one that was humble enough to say, I have not led a perfect life, but I want a perfect forgiveness, a perfect love, and I know that comes from you.
So why are we so afraid to say, "I’m crumbling?" Because everyone will know the perfect image we put off isn’t real, and we’ve identified our worth with the image. But the image is only that — a replication, an imitation of what’s real. The real thing is what you want more than anything to pour out at the feet of Jesus. That’s what real is. And He loves real. Fake, he can’t do anything with. The truth is, he hates fake.
But messy, crumbling, slobbering, mascara running, hair out of place, Ive made a mess of my life and I need you: that’s what really pulls at his heart. In a world obsessed with how things look on the outside, hes searching for hearts that arent afraid to break open and bleed a little or a lot.
Do you want the perfect image? Then imitate her. Dont imitate the images of our culture. They are illusions. What is real is everything we see in the woman who led the sinful life: a willingness to say, this is what is underneath the veneer . . . and Im not afraid to let other people know that. Im not afraid to pour out my heart, because I know he loves me like this.
Your sins are forgiven, he said to her, Your faith has saved you. Go in peace.
WHAT OTHERS ARE SAYING
At the age of 18, I was recovering from an eating disorder, cutting, and suicide when I read Jennifer Strickland’s book Girl Perfect and it changed my life. At the age of 33, as I travel the world reaching youth for the gospel, this is the only book I recommend to girls who are struggling. The Lord has truly anointed Jennifer’s words through her story, not only to address the struggles of today’s generation of girls, but also to walk them through the healing necessary for victory.
Jennifer is a captivating speaker. She keeps the listener hanging in wonder of what’s coming next! Her presentation is not only absorbing, it reveals the truth of God’s power to heal a wounded spirit.
Barbara Brown, Former Stonecroft Ministries Regional Representative, San Diego, CA
“The ‘P’ word [perfection] may be the heaviest burden women bear. All the misguided things we do to attain it can keep us away from what we need most – the unconditional love of God the Father. The Girl Perfect Study Guide gives you a map to the wholeness you were created for.”
Nancy Ortberg, author and former teaching pastor at Willow Creek Community Church
“The Girl Perfect Study Guide shatters the lies girls and women believe and points to the ultimate truth, which really does set us free. I am confident that this study will help thousands discover a beauty, purpose, and worth that truly lasts. Thank you Jen for exposing the ‘perfect life’ and inviting girls to experience God’s ‘perfect love.'”
Allie Marie Smith
Allie Marie Smith, Founder of Wonderfully Made
One of the best testaments to what Jennifer is doing for the young girls and women of today is a comment from my eleven-year-old granddaughter: “Grammy, I want to read this book and hear her again. She’s good and I learned a lot.” This is exactly what I experienced from a grown-up perspective when I was introduced to Jennifer Strickland’s amazing story. Read it and see if you don’t get the real story from an icon model and a powerful speaker of truth.”