Wednesday, March 4, 2009

How Much Can I Give?

Part 2

Frustration and anger are poor foundation stones for a life. A mind clouded by emotional pain can make choices that were never considered on clearer days. Brighter days. More innocent days.

Her journey into darkness had started with a misplaced trust. A broken heart. One tiny decision that erupted into a volcano of destruction.

Her father spat on her when he found out. Her mother walked away, weeping. Her brothers called her vile, filthy words as she begged for forgiveness. They physically threw her out of the house. Even her few items of extra clothes were denied her.

Alone. Destitute. To whom could she turn? By now, every house in the village knew. Her shame. Her failure. Her impurity.

Nothing. She had nothing except her pretty, young body. Then she saw the vial attached to the leather strand around her neck. The gift from her parents when she had come of age. It was the custom. Every father worked for years to provide his daughter with this treasured gift. The gift she and her family would present to her husba...

But he, the one chosen, the focus of her dreams...he had spat on her, too. Remembering, she ripped the cord from her neck and raised her arm to fling it away. But she couldn't let go. She grasped it as she fell to the dirt, sobbing.

At first, she planned to sell it and and move far away. Until someone showed her another way to get money. Now she placed it on a small shelf in her little house. At times she broke into fresh tears when she looked at it. At other times she held it up in mock victory over the hypocrites who condemned her. The ones who quietly came up her path at night.

But, when she left the tiny place, she always took it with her. She had sown a hidden pocket in the folds of her dress. Thieves wouldn't easily steal her treasure.

It was in the afternoon when she heard the Teacher was in town. The entire marketplace was abuzz with word that he would be at a Pharisee's house that night. The despised religious leader gathered his robes and walked the other way when he saw her. He would not be so brave in front of this man whose reputation was of compassion, healing and hope.

She must see this Jesus of Nazareth tonight. She would cover her head and veil herself until she was inside. She didn't know why, but she was drawn to him. Just hearing the stories of those to whom he had spoken was enough. What would she say if he acknowledged her? What would she ask? She didn't know. For some strange reason, she didn't care.

She knew the whispers and the sneers she would receive. She no longer cared about that, either.

It happened the moment she looked into his eyes. He saw into her soul. He could see her bitterness. He felt her anguish. Tears formed at the corner of his eyes and he quietly said one word that no one else could hear.


She suddenly saw herself. As he saw her. The first sob burst from her lungs.

As her tears subsided, she wanted to say, "Thank you." But how? Then she felt it. The slight bulge of the vial she always carried near her.


Thank you for joining me today. I have taken a few liberties to share this story from Luke 7. Historians say that the Jews of that day often gave small alabaster vials of perfume to their young daughters as a part of their dowries. We don't know if that's the way she received hers. We do know that she was a sinful outcast in her town.

Jesus said in similar passages in Matthew and Mark that this gift and the woman who gave it would always be remembered wherever people spoke of Him. Watchman Nee, a much persecuted Chinese pastor, wrote that the reason for remembering is simple. We, you and I, are alabaster vials. When we receive Jesus by faith, He is the costly perfume. His sweet essence is released from us through our brokenness.

In a very sobering way, I am like this woman. I have been forgiven much. She gave him her most precious treasure and so must I. I have few riches and relatively small talents. I have no fame and little influence.

So I give Him myself.

How much would you give?


Dina said...

Beautifully told! Some days His sweet essence is strong in my life and others the stench of sin is still too present. I try to give Him all of myself, but I fail - sometimes out of fear of what He might ask of me and sometimes because I still get too caught up in this world. And so, I pray, I confess and I thank him for being my Savior.

Rachel Cotterill said...

"Frustration and anger are poor foundation stones for a life" - that is so true. I'm trying to give up negativity for Lent but it requires a lot of concentration.