Loren is gone to Canada this week, training at a Young Life camp called Malibu, for our upcoming assignment there this summer. And I've learned something while he's gone. It turns out that, especially when Loren is away, I tend to reward myself with sugar (preferably chocolate, but I’m generally not picky) when I am productive with my time. And, let me just say that I'm fairly generous with the definition of productive. For instance, getting all three kids through the day and then to bed at a reasonable hour counts as "productive." I've learned this about myself because I've given up sugar for Lent this year and it is especially hard right now. I'm dreaming about Cadbury Mini Eggs all through the day. Oh Lent…how you expose us.
Actually, God is using this whole experience to expose more than just my addiction to sugar. We are a people obsessed with productivity. And it has creeped in to how we live out our faith as well. Last week, in my Lenten devotional, I read the story of the woman who anoints Jesus' feet with expensive oil. It captivated me and I read it again, twice. Walter Wangerin Jr. says this about it, "The disciples were offended by an act that produced nothing, accomplished nothing, fed no poor, served no need....but Jesus called it 'beautiful'." This act, which had nothing to offer except it's wonderfulness, was beautiful to him.
The thought of that has been running through my mind for the last week. See, I don't really struggle with how much Jesus loves me (right now). I know it's true. But I do struggle sometimes with the notion that I am not doing enough for him as a stay at home mom. Surely, the Lord wants me to do more than get my kids another snack or put them in timeout again. Surely he even wants more than my attempts to love them well and teach them about him. Am I really as valuable to his Kingdom in this season where I feel sidelined in a lot of ways? That's why I was so drawn to this story. The woman offered nothing reasonably productive but her love, but Jesus honored her, so much so that he declared that "wherever the gospel is preached what she has done will be told in memory of her."
In the midst of (skeptically) thinking through what it means that I am valuable regardless of my rate of productivity, and that I create beauty every day just by loving him, I met with a sweet college friend of mine yesterday. We've been friends since she was a freshman in high school and I adore her. Actually, adore might not be a strong enough word. She is home from college on Spring Break and she called me up and brought me coffee and came over to chat. She sat on my couch and shared her beautiful heart with me and in my rush to be an encouraging, productive voice in her life, I missed it. What I gave her in return was a lot of mumbo jumbo christian stuff that was a lot more about me than it was about her. I recognized it the instant she left and I told her so. She sweetly texted back, "It's alright." Part of me had hoped she didn't notice. She definitely did.
Way to bring your point home, God. Props for creativity and timing. But I'm grateful for your tender mercy in exposing me. It always brings me back to you. To beauty.
What I should have done yesterday was just love Jesus and love Lindsay. What could be more encouraging than that? What could be more beautiful? My desire to produce always gets in the way. Not because it's wrong to want to be used by God, but because it is always about me. I've missed countless moments of beauty because of my desire to make myself valuable to the Kingdom. And I'm much more comfortable selling my oil and producing a tangible result from the profits, so to speak. But, I'm learning about the simple beauty of just loving Jesus, too. Of just sitting with him and offering him whatever I have. And actually, I do believe he can use that to produce something quite lovely. Even if that something is only me.