Monday, November 3, 2008

Lovely Waste

During a dinner for Jesus and his disciples, a woman moved inward among the recliners at the table. Culture and tradition was forgotten. Hair unbound, eyes focused, hands trembling. She came toward Jesus with an alabaster jar filled with expensive perfume. And of all things, she broke the jar and anointed Jesus, right then and there—in full view of them all. Then she took the act a step further: she dried his feet with her hair.

Scandalous, questionable, risky behavior.

You know the story. You have heard it from many angles.

A woman bent—kneeling at the feet of Jesus. She is scrutinized and criticized. In the eyes of many she is weighed and found wanting. She comes up short. Wasteful woman. Their words are derisive and condescending. And they discussed her as if she were not present.

Crazy woman. She doesn’t have a clue what she has just squandered. Immediately they deemed her act to have no value. There were too many other “good” things that could have been done. Even Judas made suggestions, and the others were in agreement. They turned to Jesus for his assessment.

Jesus remained silent. He did this often when the disciples made fools of themselves. He waited until the heat of their protestations had dwindled. He paused until the intensity of their overwrought reactions dissipated (remember the woman caught in adultery?)

And then he spoke. As usual they had missed the point.

She had opted to be extravagantly wasteful rather than piously good.

“Leave her alone. She has done a beautiful thing to me.”

Some versions of Scripture translate the word beautiful as “good” or “beautiful”. This particular word has a slightly different nuance. It means “lovely, winsomely good, not just morally good (though this thought is present)".

“Leave her alone. She has done a lovely thing to me.”

The disciples are stunned. They stammerd and murmured at the rebuke. Once again their paradigm of value in Jesus’ kingdom is shifted and turned on its head. All their lives they had been taught to value the “good”. They had watched the Pharisees: pious and devout. And so their definitions of good evolved and revolved around the outward, religious acts of the Pharisees.

And of course we should take note. We should pay attention. We should be willing and even eager to be extravagantly wasteful for and toward Jesus.

But I have learned something else. Never would I have caught this truth had I not studied and pondered this dear woman’s sacrificial actions. I discovered the word kalos (lovely and winsomely good) as a result of studying her.

My God has always been good to me. Always. Since I was a young girl: lost and in utter darkness and profound poverty. His goodness has led me, guided me, conducted me, convicted me, compelled me, and corrected me. As I survey the last forty-some years of my life I see not just traces but rivers of this goodness flooded over me and my life.

Recently though, as I have assessed and weighed and pondered my life, I have found a tributary in his river I had never noticed. This tributary is an endless succession of blessing and intervention and grace: specific and detailed. It is so evident I wonder how I actually missed its presence, but I did. Then I realize why.

I questioned my God’s judgment. I have questioned his actions toward me. As he has poured out rich perfume on me I have protested. I have fussed. I have argued. Surely there is someone or something more worthy of his attention? Surely there is someone who deserves this lavish outpouring more than this crazy woman named Tamera—with all her flaws, issues, walls, and sins. Surely. My whining objections were loud, and my balking behavior was overwrought.

But he waited, in silence, for my protestations to dwindle and dissipate.

Then he spoke to me. As usual I had missed the point.

Leave me alone. I am doing a lovely thing for you.”

I am the recipient of the kalos of God.

My God, through Jesus, has been extravagantly wasteful to me.


TARSmith said...

And to me. Our prodigal God seems to delight in doing so!

Mac Goddard said...

You blow me away!! Keep on writing!

The Thrill of Hope--Jeremiah, Part 1

One April evening in 2017 we reached for your Mama and Daddy’s hands and led them into the stillness of an empty sanctuary. At an altar we...