"This will be your alabaster year."
That was the message I got in the middle of worship on a Sunday morning service at the start of January, 2020. I had been seeking God on what my word for the year was and as clear as day, God was faithful to give His direction. It sounded cute and heart warming in the moment but as I reflected on the words, 'alabaster jar', I knew that that wasn't a light message. There was weight to these words and consequences attached to what God was saying the year ahead entailed.
About six months before that, God had firmly and lovingly redirected my path and radically changed the plans that I had had for my own life. In His mercy, He had given me a year to prepare for that directive that involved major transition. Here was God again, months later, reminding me that there was a cost, sacrifice, and a need to have a willing to be misunderstood coming up on the horizon of 2020.
I can't say it was joyful surrender every day. Some days were following His voice and instructions wildly and passionately, glad to abandon everything to obey Jesus. Many days to be perfectly honest were following His voice and instructions kicking and screaming the entire time. The truth is, there were points of questioning and second guessing what God was asking of me. Points where the disdain of others flooded my heart and thoughts. My following of God's voice wasn't going to make sense to anyone.
While Jesus was in Bethany in the home of Simon the Leper, a woman came to him with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, which she poured on his head as he was reclining at the table. When the disciples saw this, they were indignant. “Why this waste?” they asked. “This perfume could have been sold at a high price and the money given to the poor.” Aware of this, Jesus said to them, “Why are you bothering this woman? She has done a beautiful thing to me. The poor you will always have with you, my body, she did it to prepare me for burial. Truly I tell you, wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her."
Matthew 26:6 -13
“Why this waste?” A question we may ask ourselves. A question others may ask us - including those we hold dear to us and those we esteem. Mary’s offering was waste to Judas but worship to Jesus. What is perceived as waste by one is received as worthy by the One who really matters. Can our conviction of His worthiness drown the voice of opposition claiming, "Waste!"? Waste of talents, gifts, resources, experience etc.
So often, logic gets in the way of lavish love, and human reasoning coaches you out of your sacrifice. Fear of the future causes us to grasp that which God may be asking to lay at His feet. Rationality bargains with us for what measure of our lives, dreams and plans we will freely relinquish and pour out. We are reminded of the need to lay down that which is most precious to us. That which we have had stored up or have been saving up. That which we and the world recognize as valuable and have never dared let go to 'waste'.
The woman, with her jar left her dwelling place, jar in hand, showing up uninvited to a place to pay deep honor to the King. We pour our lives out based on revelation of the one we behold. As we behold our Beloved One and fix our eyes on Him, we develop a heightened awareness of His majesty, splendor and endless worth. We recognize that He is worthy of it all and therefore, worthy of all we own and have. Every so often, others behold us beholding Him and responding to Him and are offended. Waste is the only reasonable response to revelation and your lavish devotion may be interpreted as wastefulness to those who do not share you revelation.
If we are called to first love devotion, then He can have all the life plans we have been devoted to.
If we are called to put Him first, then orienting our entire lives to honor Him must be our response.
If we are called to live lives that worship, then there's no such thing as giving Him too much.
Our all for Him and our all to Him.
It's 2021 and I'm still learning that it’s a dangerous thing to tell the Lord, “You can have it all.”
To lay out your path for the redirection of the Shepherd.
To give over the plans penciled and penned in to be refined by the blood.
It’s a dangerous thing to tell the Lord, “I’ll go anywhere and do anything you want me to.”
Because those who behold you beholding Him will make you feel misunderstood, misjudged and possibly label you as crazy or wasteful.
It’s a dangerous thing to pray, "Your will be done."
It’s a dangerous thing to respond to His every call and instruction.
But it’s a delightful thing,
To give away ourselves to our all in all.
I'm still learning to ask myself,
Where have I looked at my life and taken calculated risks and rationed worship responses instead of lavish love and costly worship?
Where has the fear of the disdain or reproach of others dictated what I am willing to pour out?
What are the things I have held back, saving up for a different occasion?
All the while forgetting that His very presence and at His is the grandest of occasions. If Emmanuel is always with us in the here and now, then every moment is a grand occasion that I can give Him everything I have and everything I am. For there will never be another more worthy than Him.
I'm still learning that my ability to pour out the expensive stuff, the very things that feel too costly to my will, plans and strategy and too valuable to lay down will one day bring forth delight even as I persevere through Christ's continuous class on Joyful Surrender. I'm still learning to heed to the call to lay my life down and lovingly, obediently and promptly respond to He who already extravagantly poured Himself out for us.
What does it mean for you to have present lavish devotion and costly offering in 2021?
It means we open handedly pour out even that which we so easily withhold. It means joyful surrender and obedience even when no one else understands or supports the decision you need to make. It means beholding the beauty and majesty of Jesus and as Paul says, counting everything else as loss in comparison to Christ, even the former things we once counted as gains.
So in 2021, I’ve come to worship again.
With all I have,
To the One who bore the nails,
And my sin, and my pain.
To the One who is my joy and eternal prize.
He can have my life,
He can have my time,
He can have my finances,
He can have my career,
He can have my gifts,
From Him are all things,
To Him are all things,
He's endlessly worthy of all I will ever have to give.