The following blog is from guest blogger, Tiffany Hess- a member of Diane’s team
“If God had to bring me to Uganda to hear this story today, then it was worth it all.” This thought actually crossed my mind as I sat in Gulu Bible Community Church, my heart heavy with love and conviction, my eyes steeling back and forth from Diane’s animated face to the precious features of the Ugandan baby sucking on his momma’s breast. My ears tickled at the juxoposition of lively but soft chatter from thirty Ugandan women seated in a half-moon shape in front of Diane. What a sweet scene unfolded before my eyes.
Diane and I were asked to speak at the women’s weekly bible study on Wednesday. We agreed, but because of some unforeseen developments, had little time to prepare. The night before we stayed up later than normal for both of us, discussing and processing our time in Uganda thus far. As I laid down to rest that night, I sensed the enemy lurking in the shadows. Yes, I was a bit disturbed, but knew that the God I served was mightier than the god of this world. I told the enemy to shove it, and went to sleep by God’s grace. When I awoke the next morning, I asked God to speak His truth to me. He gave me this verse: “Do not deceive yourselves. If any one of you thinks he is wise by the standards of this age, he should become a “fool” so that he may become wise.” Intrigued, I read on. “For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight….” I honestly wasn’t sure what to make of this verse, so I tucked it in my heart to see what God would do.
As Diane prepared for the morning, she felt God lay two things on her heart. One, she felt she should use the “God-Story” method to teach that morning; and two, that she should share the story of Luke 7:36-50. Just an aside, for those of you unfamiliar with the God-Story method, it was developed primarily to reach the illiterate. Most cultures around the world pass along information, values, and lessons through the telling of stories. Thus, this method begins by the telling of a Bible story by the facilitator. The faciliator then asks for a volunteer from the audience to retell the story. After this, the facilitator asks questions about the narrative to draw attention to certain aspects of the story and allow the Holy Spirit to speak and reveal as he wishes. I’ve heard Diane speak of this method several times, but have never seen it in action. I loved what I saw and experienced- it was brillant to see the women fully engaged.
The story God chose for the morning was that of the sinful woman who went to worship Jesus at the Pharisee’s house. Uninvited, the woman walked into the meeting of Jesus and the religious leaders, came up behind Jesus, and fell at his feet weeping. Imagine the thoughts that must have entered the minds of the other guests! The Ugandan women suggested that some may have thought Jesus had had a relationship with her of some sort. Indeed, thats a very good point. Not only did the woman risk coming to Jesus and being rejected, but Jesus risked His reputation by allowing her to fall at His feet. But she apparently knew and trusted the character of Jesus. The intimacy of the scene is enough to make you completely uncomfortable! The sinful woman poured expensive perfume on the feet of Jesus and began wiping His feet with her tears and hair. This kind of scene is almost humiliating! This woman clearly worshipped Him with all her heart, all her soul, all her mind, and all her strength. Jesus being full of wisdom, addressed the thoughts of Simon the Pharisee who said in his heart, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is- that she is a sinner.”
Jesus replied to Simon aloud through a parable. He explained there were two men who owed money, one who owed many denari, the other who owed just a few denari. He then asked Simon who loved the moneylender more for forgiving them their debts. Simon replied, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt canceled.” Jesus then explained to Simon that he invited Jesus into his house, but did not even give him the customary greeting of washing his feet. But the sinful lady washed His feet with her very tears and tenderly kissed his feet. Jesus was really revealing the heart condition of the Pharisee and the sinful woman. As Diane helped to point out in the story, Simon simply invited Jesus into his home to test and critique him- to see if he indeed was who he claimed to be. But the woman came to Him for she understood who He was and she knew her need for Jesus as her only hope. As a group of women, we were challenged to consider our heart condition and what Jesus longs for us to understand.
My heart was thick with conviction. I saw the religious spirit of my own heart. Just the night before I had voiced my own doubts about Christ. I couldn’t understand how God could say He would provide for His people, and yet I saw His Ugandan children suffering from hunger and poverty. The “thorn in my own flesh,” to be honest with you, has always been doubt. I have struggled with it at different times in my life. While God has blessed me with a deep, analytical mind, it has also been a sort of curse. At times I rely too much on my own knowledge and understanding that it prevents the child-like faith Jesus challenges us to accept. I struggle to find the unique compatibility of faith and knowledge.
When Diane and I had first become friends, God spoke through her to reveal my need for a heart fully alive. My faith remained bound by my mind. I’ll tell you, the longest and most challenging of journeys has been the journey of faith from my head to my heart. But God is soooo good, He has been faithful and loving to help me along this journey, one step at a time. The verse God gave me about eight years ago was Jeremiah 29: 13, which says, “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” I’ve always struggled to seek God with all my heart, because part of my heart was still bound by my mind. I couldn’t even quite fathom what “seeking God with all my heart” actually looked like. But I see it now in the story of the sinful woman. She sought her Jesus with all her heart, all her soul, all her mind, and all her strength. She risked her all for Jesus. And He did not disappoint. As I sat in the Bible study, listening to the women come to their own conclusions about what this passage meant, the Holy Spirit stirring their hearts, I remembered the verse God gave me that morning. Was I relying too much on my own knowledge, believing I was wise by the standards of this world? Do I judge by my own accord?
The beauty of Jesus’ ways in this passage astound me. He elevates not only a sinful person, but a woman, who was deemed an inferior in that culture. He loves the purity of this woman’s heart, contrasting it with the judgmental character of the Pharisee. Jesus honors a heart seeking intimacy with Him, in fact He longs for it. How beautiful are the ways of our Father. In perfect timing, once again Jesus reveals to me that He is after my heart condition. He is after yours too…