Sunday, August 14, 2011

What 'spikenard' is yours?

Most Friday nights I drive about an hour away to a Chinese ministry where I teach the class for tween and teen girls. I took over the class over a year ago when the former teacher had to leave for school.  In all honesty, it's a challenge sometimes.  It's very far... my brain usually starts winding down at the end of the day at the end of the week and I'm not always as sharp mentally as I'd like while teaching... it takes, like everything, preparation... and it's on Friday night.  Now, really by no standards would I be considered a "partier"... as a matter of fact, my idea of a fun Friday evening is really just having a family movie night at home with a well planned meal.  But, sometimes, social things do come up, there is a young adult Bible study my sister and I used to enjoy attending from time to time... now, I usually turn invitations down (if I can't miss it, I get a sub for my little class).  My baby sister says this is worse social suicide than when I was training for a marathon.  She's right in a way.

For whatever reason, it has been challenging for me to give up my right to how I spend "my" Friday nights.

"Most every Friday night you're out with Chinese families and girls, it's no wonder you're still single," satan has tried to whisper.   "You're tired, you've had a long week, this is hard," my flesh whines.

But these young ladies are precious.  I mean, really precious.  They have the distinct privilage of not being inoculated to Christ by over-exposure to American-Christiandom.  Many of them have come to Christ directly through this Chinese ministry, and many of their parents still are not saved.  Many of them are the only Christians they know of in their school.  They bless me, every time I see them.  I love the way they pray in simple English and simple faith.  I love the way an 11 year old girl shares that God has been showing her that when she doesn't read her Bible in the morning the day is all wrong.  I love the way they drink in Jesus.  I love the way they go back to China to visit their relatives, and they carry Christ with them.  I love the way the adults are learning about the Gospel while I teach their daughters.  I love the whole ministry and the other volunteers.  I even love the way the Chinese concept of matching clothes is so radically different than mine.

Yet, I don't attend these Friday night meetings for myself.  (This is a very good thing.)  I don't attend these Friday night meetings for the girls even, although I love them dearly.  I attend these meetings for Jesus.

I recently heard that the oil of spikenard that was poured on Jesus' feet by Mary of Bethany (Jn. 12:1-3) was likely her dowry.  She poured her dowry, her chance of getting married, at Jesus' feet.  That puts a whole other perspective on the story, besides an expensive bottle of perfume, I think.

When I heard that, I stopped and pondered what I had to pour out at Jesus' feet... my Friday nights... were they a worthy offering to pour out at Jesus' feet?  Some might consider my 'social suicide' part of my reason for not being married yet (my relatives would, I'm sure; but I learned a long time ago not to worry about what they think, because they are not a part of my Audience of One that I want to please)... But the reality is that where I spend my Friday nights has little to do with God's timing, yet the crux of the issue has everything to do with pouring out something that costs me, at the feet of Jesus.

Making the effort on Friday nights to make the trek into Big City cost me something (ie: rest, spending time doing something relaxing or recreational, etc).  A very small something*, but still a small something.  But isn't Jesus worthy of my all?  Would it be better to spend my Friday nights pleasing myself?  No, Jesus is worthy.  And when I think of it in light of this fact, it is an absolute privilege to have something that costs me, to pour out at the feet of Jesus.

Driving down the long dark country roads to home, I feel His pleasure, and the presence of my Prince of Peace fills my car, and there is no ache to the aloneness.  But even when there is, even the loneliness is a gift to be poured out at His feet.

One day I might be called to hand off the class, or get a teaching partner to trade off with, but the heart of the issue is that I keep my heart pure from having a "right" to "my" schedule.

Everything has value when it's poured out at Jesus' feet.

(we sang this in church this morning, and I just loved it)

Jesus is all the world to me,
And true to Him I’ll be;
Oh, how could I this Friend deny,
When He’s so true to me?
Following Him I know I’m right,
He watches o’er me day and night;
Following Him by day and night,
He’s my Friend.

Jesus is all the world to me,
I want no better Friend;
I trust Him now, I’ll trust Him when
Life’s fleeting days shall end.
Beautiful life with such a Friend,
Beautiful life that has no end;
Eternal life, eternal joy,
He’s my Friend.

*really nothing in comparison to what so many persecuted Christians give up, I am almost embarrassed to mention my little trivial battle within myself about this... I only do it to help remind all of us that we all have something, great or small, to offer.


Ryan said...

This blog is beautiful. It speaks to me on a very deep level (I've actually written about that woman and her dowry-gift before. It is one of the stories in the Bible that I keep coming back to over and over again.) It is a hard thing to stomach, the complete gift of self to Jesus, no matter how much I remind myself that He gave Himself to me without reserve. I just have to have faith that He wants me far more than I want Him, and that He can use even the tiniest little desire on my part to belong to Him completely.

I think that's the greatest benefit of the enforced and voluntary isolation of my military life for the last almost decade. It forced me to rely on Him. When I give myself entirely to Him, to do with as He pleases, by living where He puts me to the full, then my life is meaningful and fulfilling. When I seize control for myself, then I can't be satisfied with anything. There is no peace.

Think how much He must love us to teach us this, even by sometimes painful means. When God says, "This is going to hurt me more than it hurts you," I look at the cross and I believe Him.

Beloved's Bride said...

Oh Marianna. I am learning in my study that there are two kinds of Christians "Righteous" and "Holy" that will enter the gates of Heaven. I think you are working on the "Holy" part. I wonder if there are "Holy" jewels that are different than the "righteous" jewels? I know there are several for different reasons that are given! OH, How wonderful to be able to see you one day lay this particular stone in your crown at the foot of Jesus.

Marianna said...

Thank you, Ryan. Did you write about it on your blog? I'd love to read your perspective on the story sometime. It's a story that I'd been meditating on for months before I uncovered this particular applicable truth in it.

Mmm... loved what you said about how God has used the isolation and really your comment in general... good stuff.

Mrs. Carmen, I have been thinking all week about the difference between "righteous" and "holy" since you said that... I'd never thought there was a difference, but now I think you must be right... I'd love to hear more of your perspective about this! It sounds so good! Thank you so much for your comment and for getting me to thinking. Your comments are always an honor to receive. <3