I just heard this story for the first time and it blows my mind. Mary Clarke was a beautiful blonde living in Beverly Hills who describes her life there as “glamorous.” Then in 1969 she had this dream, and in her dream she was a prisoner at Calvary and was about to be executed. But then Jesus appeared and offered to take her place. She refused his offer, touched him on the cheek, and told him she would never leave him. Her life has never been the same since.
A few years after that dream, she moved into a Tijuana prison. Yes, you read that correctly, she actually moved into a Mexican prison, with the drug dealers, thieves, and murderers incarcerated there. She made her home in one of the prison’s sparse 10′ wide cells. She went there to serve the prisoners, and 25 years later she’s still there! She dresses their wounds, provides them with medicine, helps their families on the outside, and even washes their bodies for burial. One time she even stopped a prison riot! She walked right out there in the midst of the chaos, held up her hands, and everyone just stopped. Not surprisingly she has had enormous influence on the prison population for Christ. (Jordan and Sullivan, The Prison Angel, Wiki, Mother Antonia, Mike Fordham, Greatest Example of Self Sacrifice)
How Jesus Loved People
The Jesus, Mary Clarke follows loved people by serving them. He was always doing something for others: he was always healing people, or teaching people, or feeding people. He came, to serve people.
Right in the middle of his last supper he got up, took off his outer clothing, wrapped himself in a towel, and started washing his disciples feet. When he was finished with all of them he said, “Do you understand what I have done for you? You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set an example that you should do as I have done for you. Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.” (John 13:4-17)
Love Like Jesus
Have you ever been around someone who lords themselves over others and exercises their authority? How loved do you feel when you’re around that person? Jesus said to us directly, “Not so with you.” (Matthew 20:26) He said that in the context of a question asked by James and John’s mother.
The mother of James and John approached Jesus, and he could tell she wanted something from him.
“What is it you want?” he asks.
“Grant that one of these two sons of mine may sit at your right and the other at your left in your kingdom,” she says.
Wow. A bold request. I suppose, like many moms, and dads, she thought her boys deserved top billing. But when this gets out to the other ten disciples they become upset about the whole thing. Indignant I think is the word used in the bible.
So Jesus calls them all together and says, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave–just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:20-27)
So here’s the thing, it’s not so much about what you do exactly. I don’t know about you, but I don’t think very many of us are going to move into a cell in a Mexican prison. But what it is about, is your heart.
Serving With a Dandelion
I read about this pediatrician whose wife taught Sunday school. One little girl in her class, Sarah, was the kind of kid who was always in trouble. But she was also the kind of kid who was impossible not to like. One day the Sunday school teacher was instructing the class on this very topic, the topic of serving. She told the kids how important it was to serve and Sarah raised her hand and asked the question, “Teacher, what can I do? I don’t know how to do many useful things.”
Well the teacher wasn’t ready for the question so she looked around the classroom and saw an empty flower vase on the window sill. Off the top of her head, she suggested Sarah bring a flower to put in the vase.
So the next Sunday Sarah brought in a dandelion and put it in the vase. Every week thereafter she continued to do the same until the the pastor was so moved by her faithful service, he decided to put the vase next to the pulpit in the sanctuary and use it as an illustration.
Around that time the Sunday school teacher’s husband, the pediatrician, received a call from Sarah’s parents. She was sick. She was very sick. So the pediatrician ordered a battery of tests and the results, tragically, pointed to leukemia.
As time passed Sarah was confined to bed and entertained visitors in her home because she was too weak to venture out. When it got to the point where Sarah had just days to live, the Sunday service at her church started as it had for some time now, without Sarah. But then at the end of the sermon, the pastor suddenly stopped speaking. He looked to the back of the church wide eyed. He was amazed to see Sarah, wrapped in a blanket, with a dandelion in her hand. She walked to the front of the church and put her flower in the vase that was still there next to the pulpit. And she also left a note.
Four days later, God took her home. And the note? The note she wrote said,
This vase has been the biggest honor of my life.
(David Cerqueira, Sarah’s Vase, Crosswalk)
So you see, it’s not what you do, it’s about your heart. You have to have a heart for serving others. You have to focus on what you can do rather than what someone else is doing, or on what you can’t do.
You have to have a heart to serve.
Mary Clarke did.
You can too.
[You might also like Love Like Jesus–Hope for those of us who can’t raise people from the dead]
[Mexican prison image via Ryan – Creative Commons]