The Cure For Being A People-Pleaser

            “If I spend all my time trying to be like everyone else, who will spend time being me?”

The cool of the day had come. The sun had begun its afternoon descent, not yet tucking behind the horizon, but lighting the sky as if it had tired a bit and was ready for a retreat. Normally, at this time of day, she would have been walking the dusty roads of her town. Her sandals would have been etched with two words, one on each foot: “Follow Me.” She would wait until a man did so, and then she would lead him to private quarters where, in exchange for money, she would let down her hair and give herself away.

            But not on this evening.

            Word had spread that a Pharisee in town was hosting a dinner for a visiting teacher. But people said that this man was more than a teacher. He was different. As was custom, the home would be open for any to come and listen to the conversation, but only the invited could eat the food served. Though she would never normally set her foot in the house of a man who saw only her sin, she found herself unable to stay away. On this night, curiosity was greater than commerce, hope greater than hate. 

            She put on her sandals. It was customary for her to perfume herself for her clients. It was no ordinary perfume. Her wages provided her the ability to afford the finest. She found the alabaster jar of her favorite perfume, took it with her, and made her way to the house. She smiled to herself; if any man chose to follow her now, he would be surprised at her destination. As she entered the home, she removed her sandals, placing them with the others. 

            The room was crowded. She looked at those reclined at the table, saw where Jesus was, and drew back against the wall with the other onlookers. She watched and listened from the shadows, and she waited. 

            Then she could wait no longer. What they said about this man was true, and what she heard him say were words she had never heard before. She stepped forward and stood above where he reclined. Tears began to flow down her face. They spilled upon his feet. She knelt down, and in a familiar gesture, let down her hair. But this time, her hair cascaded around her face as a veil, a garment of worship, and she wiped her tears from his feet. 

            Jesus glanced back at her. She caught his gaze briefly, saw the tenderness in his eyes, felt her tears flow all the more. She brought her lips to his feet and kissed them, and not just once. She took her expensive perfume, normally applied in small amounts, and poured it forth. The scent filled the room.

            Then she heard the murmur of scandal. The Pharisee said, “If this man were a prophet, he would know what kind of woman she is, a sinner.” Jesus picked up on it. She did too. So Jesus told a story, her story, a story of a woman who loved sincerely. Then Jesus turned the story on his host. “You did not give me water for my feet (a custom of hospitality for guests who have walked dusty roads). She wet my feet. You did not kiss me. She has not stopped kissing me. You did not put oil on my head; she gave me all she had.”

            The woman’s heart had stilled. She was used to eyes being upon her. Eyes of judgment. Eyes of lust. But she felt different eyes upon her, as if people were seeing her for the first time. And then she felt his eyes. She looked up as he faced her. “Your sins are forgiven. Your faith has saved you. Go in peace”

            She brushed her hair back behind her ears; smiled as she bowed and backed away. Turning, she walked through the room and out the door, leaving her sandals behind (Luke 7).

            Jesus is irresistible.  His presence draws people. There is something about God that the loved and the last and the least and the lost and the lonely are compelled to seek. Only the false turn from the true. 

            Jesus had to turn crowds away, yet he was never a people-pleaser. 

People aren’t drawn to similarity. They are drawn to difference. And the biggest difference in this world doesn’t come from this world. 

            You are irresistible too. Do not underestimate the power of your presence. God is present in you. He is present through you. His glory fills you. You have what others long for. Your call is “to be rather than to seem.” 

            People-pleasers are trying to be present in the world around them. People-magnets brings a whole other world with them. 

            Lee Strobel told of a time a woman wrote a poem for him. She had not yet come to faith in Jesus, but she had seen enough of a difference in Lee to begin to hope. What she writes describes the presence you bring when you choose to be rather than to seem. It’s powerful. It’s Jesus. 

Do you know

Do you understand

That you represent

Jesus to me?

 

Do you know

Do you understand

That when you

Treat me with gentleness,

It raises the question in my mind

That maybe He is gentle, too.

Maybe He isn’t someone

Who laughs when I am hurt.

 

Do you know

Do you understand

That when you listedn to my questions 

And you don’t laugh,

I think, “What if Jesus is interested in me, too?”

 

Do you know 

Do you understand

That when I hear you talk about arguments and conflict and scars from your past 

That I think, “maybe I amjust a regular person

Instead of a bad, no good little girl who deserves abuse.”

 

If you care,

I think maybe He cares –

And then there’s this flame of hope

That burns inside of me

And for a while

I am afraid to breathe

Because it might go out.

 

Do you know

Do you understand

That your words are His words?

Your face, His face

To someone like me?

 

Please be who you say you are.

Please, God, don’t let this be another trick.

Please let this be real.

Please.

 

Do you know 

Do you understand

That you represent

Jesus to me?