On symbolism and futility

Why “Digging for Myrrh”?

Oh, the Bible. It is rife with symbolism.

I think that’s one of the coolest things about our walk. When I first started reading the Word, I took it all very straightforwardly and literally…and then some book or pastor or commentary might mention that Biblical names meant something specific, and my understanding of the Word grew (and then I discovered Beth Moore, and my understanding of the Word exploded—thank you, Beth). At the same time, I grew more perplexed; even though I understood that there were hidden meanings, I didn’t always understand exactly what those meanings were. And sometimes I wasn’t sure the meanings were intended to be…well, meant.

And in this I join millions of other frustrated, euphoric, puzzled and satisfied Bible-readers. Every day we all read and comment and question and pray and understand and re-question and teach and learn and forget and remember, and—I will confess—for a thinking geek like me, it’s FUN. I have discovered that the Word does speak and I love it when He does.

So I’m wandering through the book of Esther recently and thinking about the ramifications of a full year of beauty treatments before she is brought to the king, and—with “symbolism” on the brain—I start wondering what those beauty treatments were for and what they entailed.

Each young woman’s turn came to go in to King Ahasuerus after she had completed twelve months’ preparation, according to the regulations for the women, for thus were the days of their preparation apportioned: six months with oil of myrrh, and six months with perfumes and preparations for beautifying women. ~Esther, 2:12

So I read this and I’m thinking, “Wait…six MONTHS with oil of myrrh?”

The only thing I could remember off the top of my head about myrrh was that it was one of the gifts of the Magi to the Christ Child. So I went digging.

I discovered that myrrh is basically a tree gum, or sap. We’ve all seen it—you bump a tree, it bleeds, it coagulates, there you have it: sap. Only myrrh sap has some medicinal qualities and according to Wikipedia (not always a journalistically reliable source but this is my blog so today I’m going for it), has at some points in history been worth its weight in gold. Myrrh has “tonic” or “rejuvenative” properties; it has been used as an antiseptic and does good things for bad cholesterol; it has been used as a healing agent.

Myrrh also has been used in religious ceremonies for centuries, and in ancient times was used for preparing bodies for burial—hence its significance as a gift to the Christ Child, serving as a symbol of Christ’s death.

And, I discovered, myrrh was also used as a tonic or preparation for the uterus. In other words, it helped women prepare for childbirth. In Esther’s case, a good thing if you’re about to become the bride of a king.

So why myrrh? And why “digging for myrrh,” if this is a tree sap and not a mineral?

Well, this is a bit of gentle self-mockery.

I realized that everything that myrrh is, is what I am seeking in my relationship with Christ. I seek healing, rejuvenating through the Spirit. I seek a life that is pregnant with possibility. And I seek the sacrifice that Christ calls us to, the “dying to self” that happens daily in the life of a Christ-follower.

The thing is, I’m lousy at it. All of it.

So being the type-A, perfectionistic, driven personality that I am, I work harder at it. I dig. I sweat. I worry. I pray. I repent. I blow it again. And I justify all of it through the Bible verse that says we “work out our salvation with fear and trembling.” And I get nowhere fast. I get “knowledge that puffs up.”

But the funny thing is, lately God’s been puncturing my inflated self… with gentle grace. He is showing me that everything in my life comes from His hand, and by His kindness. My efforts fall flat—and this is good.

He is teaching me to depend on Him, not on myself.

So I titled this blog “Digging for Myrrh” as a way to remind myself that, as Ann Voskamp says, “All is grace.” My efforts will avail me nothing because, although I am longing for the right thing, I am barking up the wrong tree (so to speak) if I seek to do any of this in my own strength. But as I depend on Him, I find He gives all good things and will supply all my need.

I know this because, like Esther, I am a bride of the King.

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About lisa@diggingformyrrh

I'm Lisa: Christ-worshiper, writer, kitty-mama and wannabe saint (with a long way to go). Trying to stay on the path and appreciate the beauty...with daily thanksgiving. Trying to listen for His song and sing along...and loving every note.
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4 Responses to On symbolism and futility

  1. Valerie Hewitt Spiwak says:

    Lisa, don’t know if you realized this when you read the book of Esther, but it’s the only book of the Bible that doesn’t mention G-d. Almost didn’t make it into the canon because of it. And our holiday of Purim is all about the Book of Esther; we read “the whole megillah” literally a scroll containing the Book of Esther.

  2. Bob says:

    Very, very nice first blog post. I like it.

    Grace from yourself to yourself is on the way. Psalm 103! He knows we are dust. WE don’t know that, but you are on the way to knowing it by faith, and there is where His yoke is easy, His burden is light. Cast off the heavy burden, release your ‘reasons’ for why it’s hard, lay it all down, cease the striving that avails nothing. Breathe deeply of the fresh wind of the Spirit, and rest in Him. The flesh is being cast down in your life, and its fate has been sealed before you were conceived. Relax in that, revel in it, marvel at it, and let go. Let go. He will not let you be destroyed. He will not let you be put to shame.

    See His mighty power that is working in you and pouring out of you. Vessel of honor!!! Woman of God!!! (I am not TELLING you to do these things, that would be useless. Rather I speak to water the seed that is already growing, with fruit ready to burst forth. Hallelujah!!)

    Hear this: you are NOT “lousy at it”. You have inaccurate expectations for yourself, that’s all. It’s that simple. Look in the Mirror of Truth!

    Love you, Lisa…

  3. Mary Johnson Billings says:

    Wow.!! Profound yet simple. Looks like you nailed it. Now read the email I forwarded to you about the Coal Basket. I had not read your blog at that point but immediately thought of both of us.

  4. Kirwin Stewart says:

    Great thought to start my day!

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