Learning the unforced rhythms of grace


Extravagance, Perfume and Time

Last week I spoke at a mission's conference evening for young adults. A really neat experience. (I did a podcast about it, you can listen to it here if you like: #21 God's Workmanship). I used different coloured sticky notes to illustrate each disease that I have, symptoms, treatments and management tools I use to handle it all. The main point that I was trying to teach was that all of this mattered to God, that this was part of His workmanship in me, and part of His plan for showing His love to our world. The last sticky note I put on said, "Time".

I did the session three times that evening, as different groups rotated through, and by the end of the night, something new had privately gripped my own heart: TIME is for me, the expensive perfume I've been reading about in John chapter 12. 

Here's the scene: It's one week before the Jewish celebration of Passover. Jesus gets invited to have dinner at his friends' house. Lazarus, Mary, Martha and the disciples are there. Mary, a devoted friend and follower of Jesus, whom Jesus had just brought back her own brother from the dead only a short time before, knelt down before Jesus and washed his feet with an expensive perfume. Judas, the disciple, treasurer and soon-to-be-betrayer of Jesus, had a problem with this. Imagine his face starting to frown, probably rolling his eyes, shaking his head and waving his hand in front of his nose as if the smell of the perfume stunk! Judas asks, "Why wasn't this perfume sold and the money given to the poor?" What a waste - he was probably thinking.

Here's how Jesus responds . . . “Let her alone. She’s anticipating and honouring the day of my burial. You always have the poor with you. You don’t always have me” (verse 7-8). We read this and nod like, "Hmm, yes, good point . . .". But here's the thing, it's actually a really bizarre response.  He 'appears' to not care about the poor and to have a strange sense of budgeting priorities.  He is basically saying (my paraphrase), "Judas, you're wrong. You're not seeing correctly. This adoration and worship of me is appropriate, I accept it because I am worthy of it, because I am God-up-close and soon I will be gone, so the timing of this is perfect. It's costly for her to do this. Don't judge her!" 

In my past 24 years of chronic illness and pain, I have spent SO MUCH TIME being still, resting, taking care of myself, my own exhaustion, doctor's appointments and treatments. I've been similar to Judas in asking, "God, isn't this a waste? All this time in doctor's offices, pharmacies, sorting out my vitamins, napping, . . . Couldn't this time be better used somewhere else? Helping the poor? Feeding the hungry?"

God's response to me has been extravagant and similar to what He said to Mary. He has reminded me that time poured out with Him is worthwhile and appropriate. He's shown me that He is well aware of the needs around me but that sometimes, how he does things doesn't make logical sense, doesn't please people, and doesn't seem practical. My time, poured out to Him, as a priority is right and good. Others may judge, (I may even judge myself), but God doesn't. He is worthy of my time, my "perfume", my costly gift to Him. 

So, even though my talk at the young adult evening was meant to encourage them, I came home with a fresh awareness of my Judas-mentality about TIME, and God's invitation for me to pour it out . . . extravagantly . . . and receive God's love and his defense of my actions! That feels pretty good for someone who is prone to self-inflicted guilt! :) So today, while I am recovering from a twisted ankle (just a random accident) and on my bed AGAIN, and time seems to be AGAIN wasted by just sitting here . . . I am reminded to pour out my time, spend it extravagantly in worship of God, reading, writing, praying, doing creative and playful things in the freedom and non-judging-grace of God. 

Is there something costly that God is asking you to pour out to Him? Could it be that knowing God's defense of your love, your actions could free you to do so?