It’s easy to get bogged down in the popular self-help, self-affirming, self-edifying mantras of a new year, but will they stand the test of time? Do they even endure the month? Will it last a week?
The most important things have already been decided: Who I am, who will come into my life, and how long I’ll be here. That’s right, the three most important things are completely out of my control. I am, and we are all, fearfully and wonderfully made. Each person I meet is another beloved daughter or son of God, and there is no promise of next year or tomorrow, just right now. There’s freedom in that. The weight of the world is gone, knowing that the biggest, most consequential facts of my life have already been decided. It’s not up to me. Praise God.
So, if the most important things have already been decided, then what is left? We can offer so very little to God, but our lives on this earth are a gift that we are to use—and to use well.
There’s a familiar story in the Gospel of St. Mark that, for years, has helped me navigate the blank pages of new beginnings, the long days of hustle and bustle, the fleeting minutes of quiet and peace, even those unexpected comments that cut my pride or break my heart.
Two days before the Passover, the Pharisees were scheming to arrest and kill Jesus. As our Lord is in Bethany, an unnamed woman approaches Him with an expensive alabaster jar of ointment. She breaks the jar and pours it over Christ’s head. Many are indignant, saying she has wasted an opportunity to sell her treasure and give to the poor. But Jesus disagrees.
He says she “has done a beautiful thing,” that, “She has done what she could,” and “wherever the gospel is preached in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her, (v.6-9).
It was beautiful.
She just did what she could.
And it was eternally significant.
Lately, I’m struck by some who are tired of being reminded to “be kind.” I understand their point—when much of the world has gone mad, when depravity and mockery of all things holy is around every corner and on every commercial, being “kind” can seem like an insignificant game plan. It can seem small.
Forgive what may seem naivete, but I still believe in small. Small businesses, small talk, small farms, small towns, small tokens of appreciation, and the small baby in the manger. We may never know when a seemingly insignificant conversation or gesture will have an eternal impact on another, for no offering is too small for Jesus. He’s not a god of sums, but one who multiplies the little we can offer, like the few loaves and fishes to feed thousands. I trust it is faithfulness in the small moments that prepares us for something bigger, that prepares and stretches our hearts for the God who is both human and divine. Both, the beginning and the end, the Good Shepherd and the Lamb. The One who knows us—knows our hearts, our frailties, and insecurities—and loves us.
What are you going to do for Jesus this year? This month? This week? Right now? I pray one day—He knows when—I’ll hear the Lord say, “She has done what she could.” How beautiful. How eternally significant.