In her book, “The Four Things that Matter Most, Ira Byock demonstrates through stories that there are four things we should say in our relationships with one another in order to make our relationships “complete,” This doesn’t mean that the relationship will be over or that someone is dying. “Completing Relationships,” she says, means that the relationship is made whole and is never-ending. It is like a circle that continues infinitely. She says that you should think of it this way. “ If you were to die tomorrow, would you have no regrets? Would there be nothing left undone or unsaid?”
These four things that we say will force us to acknowledge rifts in our relationships with others, recognize difficulties, and in turn, give us profound transformation. These four things are statements that we say out loud to the other person –
I Forgive you
I Love you
She talks about how it is within our humanity, our humanness that we desire to feel forgiven and be forgiven. Forgiveness doesn’t mean that we excuse that person from doing something wrong. It does not alleviate their guilt or lessen the sin. Instead, Forgiveness accepts the past as it was. Forgiveness embraces the present and faces the future. This desire of wanting to feel Forgiven is a strategy to become free of emotional baggage.
In John 12:1-8, is the story of Mary of Bethany, wiping Jesus’ feet with an oil that costs as much of about 1 year’s wage, meaning, it was expensive! But, none the less, she takes the best of the best that she has, knells down, takes her own hair, and wipes Jesus’ feet. This act of washing the feet was from pure free will – meaning then that it was an expression of honor, humility, and love between two free people.
I can only imagine sitting there in the home of Mary and Martha with Jesus, the disciples, Lazarus, and the sweet aroma of the oil as Mary anoints Jesus’ feet.
But there is a problem here and one that we can’t just dismiss. There’s Judas, who is disruptive and just down right rude!
Keep in mind…that an amazing miracle had just been performed. Lazarus was the brother of Martha and Mary and had become ill. The sisters had sent someone to tell Jesus to come quick so that Jesus could heal him. But Jesus doesn’t come right away. By the time Jesus gets there, Lazarus had died. And, he was good and dead – He had been dead for four days!
Lazarus’ sisters, Martha and Mary were hurt that Jesus didn’t just drop everything to come and heal their brother. In fact, when Jesus did finally come, Mary stayed in the house and didn’t want to have to face Jesus. When she does see Jesus, she tells him, “If you had come, our brother would not be dead.”
When Jesus comes to where Lazarus is laid, Jesus prays and then asks Lazarus to “come out.” Lazarus is raised from the dead and brought into life once again with his sisters, Martha and Mary.
Jesus demonstrates to us and all those who were there that day what we have to look forward to in our last days. That we too will be raised up into life with Christ and reunited with those we love.
And now, here we are with the sisters who have prepared a meal for Jesus and his disciples. Lazarus is sitting there with them in the flesh. Mary the one who believed with all her heart that Jesus was and is the Messiah, had let her faith and trust in her Lord waiver when her beloved brother passed away.
But, Judas during this time they are sharing with Jesus, just wants to ruin everything. Judas was a tax collector and not an honest one. He took the money with every chance that he got, and he could not stand the fact that Mary was using this really expensive oil to wipe Jesus’ feet. He didn’t want the money for the poor. He wanted the money for himself! Judas wanted it to look like he cared about the poor. But, he didn’t. And, Jesus knew that he didn’t.
But yet, isn’t this part of the crux of this text here! Jesus could have called Judas out, but he doesn’t. He just tells him to leave Mary alone. Jesus knew that Mary’s faith and trust in him had waivered when he didn’t come to heal her brother. But he never makes her feel bad for it. In fact, he rejoices that she wants to be with Him. The disciples could not understand the ways of Jesus, their doubt and fear was often overwhelming.
In their hope of salvation, just like each one them, we too still doubt. We wonder if it just too good to be true that a God could ever love us so much to die for us. How could a God possibly be willing to raise us up into a new life with Him? Could Mary be thinking that “Why would Jesus care enough about Lazarus to bring him back to life with us?”
And, isn’t it true that day after day, we continually to make mistakes? We deny and betray Jesus. We don’t stand up for Him because of our fear? Why would a God care about a sinner like me?
Isn’t it true then that in this story, we too find ourselves kneeling at the feet of Jesus with our hearts aching for our relationship to be complete and, made right? If we were to die tomorrow that we would not have any regrets; nothing left undone or unsaid? Do we recognize what matters most and spend our time with Jesus as Mary has done? Do we give Jesus the best that we have – our time, our money, and our talents? Are we truly willing to opening our true selves to Him and making ourselves vulnerable?
And so…here we are – Like Mary. We knell at the feet of Jesus. Lord, please forgive me! And, Jesus responds, “I forgive you! And I love you.”
You see, these four things that Ira Byock demonstrates through story and even our very own stories, the very things that we say to complete our relationship with others that will transform us in profound ways
However, it is only possible because of what Jesus Christ first did for you. Jesus loves you so much that He was willing to be crucified for your sake, just so that forgiveness could even be possible.
You and I do not have the capability to Forgive or even love the way that we are called by God without the Forgiveness and Love of Jesus that was first given to you!
We forgive and are forgiven only because God has first loved us!
It is first Jesus Christ COMPLETES each one of us! Through His life, death, and resurrection, we are transformed in a profound way that creates joy, freedin, and the ability to face the future. – Our EVERLASTING FUTURE!
In her book, “The Four Things that Matter Most, Ira Byock states:
“The Specter of death reveals our relationships to be our most precious possessions.”
What matters most? – Our relationship with Jesus Christ…anointed and sealed with the cross forever.