Luke 7:36-38 “One of the Pharisees asked Jesus to have dinner with him, so Jesus went to his home and sat down to eat. When a certain immoral woman from that city heard he was eating there, she brought a beautiful alabaster jar filled with expensive perfume. Then she knelt behind him at his feet, weeping. Her tears fell on his feet, and she wiped them off with her hair. Then she kept kissing his feet and putting perfume on them.” NIV
For much of my adult life I have contemplated what Jesus would have me “do” for Him. In 1986 my husband Charles and I went to Ft. Worth to Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary to obtain formal education to prepare us to “do” mission work outside of the United States. In pursuit of fulfilling the requirements of our denominational international mission board we needed two years stateside pastoral ministry experience. We were interviewed and accepted at a church in Florida, just five miles from where Charles grew up and ten miles from where I lived from age thirteen up. Basically our BACKYARD. Charles threw himself into being a pastor. I jumped in with both feet to be the pastor’s wife, albeit slightly unconventional pastor’s wife, I didn’t have training and I didn’t have a clue. After the required two years we sensed that God had led us away from international missions to continue to serve in our old stomping grounds. We have fumbled and stumbled more times than not through the years, but God has remained faithful.
My desire to “do” something for Jesus sought expression still beyond the pastoral duties of hospitality, teaching and serving in various capacities at my church. Over the years I’ve engaged in prison ministry (complete with Bible study and exercise classes), home Bible study small groups, one on one mentoring, mission trips, mission/medical/ dental trips, workplace Bible studies, pregnancy care center and homeless ministry. Paul’s admonition to the Thessalonians (2 Thessonians 4:11) to “Make it your goal to live a quiet life: minding your own business and working with your hands…” either seemed impossible to me (Probably the quiet part and minding my own business.) or just not “spiritual” enough. So I continued to search for something more. However, I just could not seem to find my sweet spot ministry wise the way other people did.
The passage from Luke this morning brought me insight. The Pharisee’s invitation to Jesus to come to his house was all about him, Simon. I believe he wanted Jesus to validate him, to make him look good. It wasn’t about getting to know Jesus better. Or honoring Jesus, otherwise he wouldn’t have eschewed the customary foot washing. It wasn’t about gaining insight into salvation or the kingdom of God, he was clearly wedded to his own system of righteousness. It wasn’t about seeking intimacy with Jesus, he had his “friend” pride to cling to. He needed nothing.
To the immoral women it was ALL about Jesus. She had to be near Him. She had to let Him know she loved and honored Him more than anything. No hidden agenda, no self righteousness, nothing to offer Him but her perfume and tears. All raw, pure neediness.
In my efforts over the years to find a special ministry that I could call “mine”. I think I slipped subconsciously into Simon’s mindset. How can you, Jesus, make me look good? How can You validate me as a person, a Christian, a believer, a do gooder? I want to hear “Well done, my good and faithful servant!” for my sake, to approve me. I want people to look at me and think I’m special, not needy, broken and sinful.
I have come to the feet of Jesus many times over the years in tears of repentance and neediness. I have sensed His forgiveness and love again and again. His Word has spoken to my heart, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” I am confident that even in the midst of relapsing into my “performance based, all about me ministry” attitude, Jesus loves me and has compassion for my broken, sinful self. He urges me on to engage in the works He has prepared in advance for me to do (Ephesians 2:10), works that bring Him honor and glory, not me. Works that might possibly be mundane or ordinary, like washing of feet, but recorded for eternity.
I love this quote from Brennan Manning’s book, All Is Grace, a friend of his Dominique had pursued revealing Christ in the most ordinary of ways by listening to people and showing them small acts of kindness. These words were found in Dominique’s journal on the final day of his life.
“All that is not the love of God has no meaning for me. I can truthfully say that I have no interest in anything but the love of God which is in Christ Jesus. If God wants it to, my life will be useful through my word and witness. If he wants it too, my life will bear fruit through my prayers and sacrifices. But the usefulness of my life is his concern, not mine. It would be indecent of me to worry about that.”
I want that to be the lived out final entry in my “journal” of life. God help me.