Written January, 1985
This has been performed a number of times, both at churches and in homes, in our nation and others, especially Uganda. My husband has often played the hymn, “I Come to the Garden Alone” at the beginning, and, as a pianist, created music to help shift from phase to phase. I wrote a poem called “Slave of Love” when writing the monologue. Dave shortly after our relationship began a few months after the monologue was written and performed the first time, he immediately sat at the piano and added the music. It is a truly beautiful song. [I now included the poem in this monologue, so it will touch your heart, just as it touched mine.]
The monologue was based, obviously, on the Mary Magdalene Story, labeled as Scenes originally, not chapters. At the beginning, about 32 years ago, I felt blessed to have heard the Lord tell me what to write and why to write it. What did I understand immediately? That it was to touch hearts, open spiritual doors, and encourage ladies who had been through difficult and disastrous times. He would break through the hard walls that surrounded them with fear, sorrow, and sin.
Since then, the purpose has not changed. How could it?
Welcome to the garden. Isn’t it beautiful? I come here often, but never without feeling I am on holy ground. People think I'm foolish; they've told me, "Jesus is no longer in the Garden, you are wasting your time. And, of course, I laugh. I know He's not here. I saw Him ascend. A smile, a loving look, and suddenly, He was suspended above me, moving slowly upward, gradually encompassed by the clouds. He even reminded us once more that He had to leave so the Comforter could come. I didn't understand – then – but I didn't need to. I was at peace. My heart was so full of love towards the Father and His Son, there was no room for grief or sorrow. But, in spite of my joy – in spite of the wonder of that day – my place of peace is this Garden. I find visits to this quiet shaded haven refreshing and renewing. As Abram and Jacob returned to Beth-el and found there a renewing of their covenants with God, so coming here provides a renewing of my spirit.
Jesus is my Lord and my Savior, my Brother, but, mostly, Jesus is my Friend. In fact, He was my first friend. Shortly before I met Him, I decided my life was worthless...less than worthless...and I would end it. My heart was desolate. I searched my heart – wandered endlessly through the dark, narrow bends of memory – for a reason to live, and found none. Momentarily, I recalled the Law, and knew that to kill myself was to murder, but Law gives no hope--and without hope there is no life.
At night I lay staring into the murky darkness, listening to the wind rustling the leaves of the olive trees outside the window. I longed for sleep, but true sleep was a vestige of the distant past. Instead of relief and rest, sleep brought dreams..and voices...ghosts to taunt, looming "beings" to mock me.
With no one to save me from my private and very real hell, I sank farther and farther into a pit of despair. I knew so well the ugly face of sin with its bitterness, hatred and despair. Yes, Oh, yes!! I wanted to die.
And then Jesus came. Jesus, the teacher from Nazareth, the Healer...the rumored Restorer of Israel, and awaited Messiah. Not only was he strong and handsome, taller than King Saul must have been, a true seed of King David, but he was the first man I'd ever seen who wasn't afraid to be tender. When he held babies in his arms or touched people with his calloused carpenter hands, he was gentle as a summer breeze.
The first time I saw him he was pressed in on all sides by the crowd. A woman holding a small child cried out "Jesus. Jesus. Over here", and immediately he stopped. "What is it, Woman?" he asked with tenderness. Tears filled her eyes. "Master", she said, "It's his legs. They are so bent...oh, Master, can you ... WILL you...help him?" I watched amazed as Jesus reached out his hands and placed them gently on the child. For a few moments He stood in silence, seemingly unaware of the crowd--and then aloud he said, "My Father, bless this mother and her son, and grant her request." Before our very eyes, as He spoke, the child's legs straightened.
From that time onward, I watched Him, cautiously, from the distance. I didn't trust men...ANY man. I agreed with the ancient observation that "the thoughts of a man's heart are only evil continually" and I was determined not to be deceived by another one.
Occasionally, as his eyes searched the crowds, Jesus looked at me, and I knew He could see right into my soul. It frightened me, but I could never resist him or shift my gaze. I was certain He knew my reputation as a harlot, some of which had grown from my night-time wanderings, but some of which had a basis in fact. I was nearly convinced that illicit "love" was better than no love at all. It amazed me that his eyes carried no condemnation. I sensed only that He hurt because I did.
Early one morning, after another tormented night, I was sitting on a rock overlooking the lake. I heard a sound on the shore behind me. I think I knew who it was even before I turned. My heart began beating so hard it drowned out the sound of the waves lapping against the shore and the crying of the gulls. Tears filled my eyes and, try as I might, I couldn't keep them from spilling over and coursing down my cheeks. I wanted to run, but I couldn't move my legs. All he said was "Mary" and he touched my shoulder and I crumpled at his feet in the sand and cried. All the agony of my life poured out in those tears. I cried till there was nothing left. And all that time, Jesus said nothing, did nothing. Just waited. Then he lifted me to my feet, cupped my face in His hands, and looked into my eyes. "Mary" he said, "I know you've been hurt and I know you've sinned. Just as you've watched me, so I've watched you. I feel the same pain in my heart you feel. I know rejection and fear and shame...not for myself, but for all the others who need to know the Father cares about them...their feelings...their needs...their future." And then as he continued to hold my gaze, the very air around us became filled with rebuke, yet I knew he wasn't rebuking me. And he said quietly, but with supreme authority, "Satan, you have harbored your demons in Mary's life, but you have no right to stay. Leave now and never return." And one by one, my tormentors left. I don't know how to explain it, but I saw them leave, like shadows passing across the sun, or smoke across a glass. And, the darkness was replaced by dazzling brightness. The wall encasing my heart shattered and I was free. Free to love, free to serve, free to follow.
"Slave of Love"
Verse 1: I look out now through eyes that see.
No fear nor hate to torture me.
No more unwanted or alone
Come now and make my heart Your throne.
Verse 2: I lived a life of agony,
Fog-shrouded pain engulfing me.
You touched my heart, You met my need,
And through Your love, my soul’s been freed.
Chorus: I’m free to serve You all my days.
I’m freely bound to sing Your praise.
I’m free to chain my life to Yours.
A Slave of Love, forevermore.
I thought I'd die when he did. The agony and rage I'd felt during the crucifixion were gone. The empty cross still stood starkly outlined against the dark sky. Joseph and Nicodemus removed the body. Jesus' mother and John left. I stayed. A soldier, overseeing the removal of the thieves' bodies stood by me clearly disturbed by the day's strange events.
"Woman", he growled. "Go. This so-called King of yours is dead. He should have left well enough alone and let Caesar be God." He swore under his breath. "These wretched provincials. What a God-forsaken land...a God-forsaken city." He continued muttering and I turned to walk down the hill. I vaguely wondered how long I would have stayed if he hadn't told me to leave.
As I tripped over a rock, and stumbled, a hand steadied me. For the first time I realized I wasn't alone.
"Mary", James said, "I've been looking for you. I thought I might find you here. I know how much you loved him."
I exploded at James, "NO one knows how much I love him. He was all I had to love...the only reason for loving. And now, there's nothing."
I could see James was uncomfortable, even sorry for me. He loved Jesus, too. He was heartbroken and ashamed of deserting his friend and Master. For the first time I felt acceptance from James. I remembered the first time James and I met, and his barely contained anger that his Master would make friends with a woman like me.
"Come stay with us", James said. "It will help if we are all together. Besides, his mother needs you."
I was too distraught to smile, but I became aware that a little of Jesus had been left behind in James. James was softer, more compassionate than before. I told him I'd stay. I didn't want to be alone. I had been alone for too many years. I wanted to be with people who knew Jesus and loved him as I had.
When we reached the house and walked inside, I saw his mother and saw so clearly the anguish on her face, the fear in her eyes, the pain in her heart. And I, the Magdalene, the Woman of the Hard Heart, wrapped my arms around the mother of Jesus, and together we wept.
And then Sunday came.
I still smile when I remember that Resurrection day. Of course, at the time I was terrified, but in looking back I can't believe I didn't know who he was. At the very least I should have recognized the love and acceptance in his eyes...that never changes.
So I come here. To rest and to remember. Pain and suffering surround us. People are dying--on the INside. Not because they want to, but, like me, they simply don't know how to live.
I still hurt, for myself and for others. I still question. But I can never doubt. No matter how black the night in my soul or looming the problems, or large the ghosts that confront me, I know that I know that I know that God loves ME. And that one shaft of light will always cut through the darkness that occasionally surrounds me--and comfort me and bring me out on the other side of my pain, of my sorrow--to wholeness, to joy and to life.