|Pouring a local porridge we enjoy for breakfast|
"What story would Jesus tell? If you were choosing a series of stories to communicate about the good news, what stories would you include? Would you talk about Creation, or Abraham, or King David, or Jesus' death and resurrection? If you had to pick just one that should always be told, which story would you choose?"
I was sitting in chapel in Dallas, Texas, four years ago, but I can still remember what my friend shared in great details, because I was soaking it all in. I hadn't yet caught the storying vision (though I have now), but I knew the concept of telling a series of stories from Scripture. I was trying to think which stories I would tell when my friend continued.
"Jesus had a story that he would put on that short list. I don't think it would have appeared on mine. Let me tell you that story."
Which story would he tell?
"It was shortly before the Passover. The religious leaders were very upset with Jesus and looking for a way to kill him. At this time, Jesus was invited to eat in the home of a man named Simon. Simon used to have an infectious skin disease, but he had been healed. While they were eating, a woman who was known as a sinner came in with an alabaster jar of a very expensive perfume. She broke the jar and the scent of the perfume filled the room as she poured the perfume on Jesus' feet. Those were were present were indignant. 'Why this waste!?!?' One of the disciples asked.
The words "Why this waste?" seemed to ring out with passion as my friend told the story. But he didn't stop. He continued.
"This perfume could have been sold at a very high cost and the money given to the poor!"
Jesus replied, "Why are you troubling this woman? She has done a beautiful thing for me! The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me! When I entered this house, the normal customs of receiving me were not even done, yet she has anointed my body for its burial. I can assure you that wherever the story of the good news is told, her story will also be told, and discussed."
And with that we continued with just what Jesus had said would happen. We discussed the story in our table groups. Someone at my table saw this as the key moment when Jesus was anointed. We call him, the Messiah meaning "anointed one" and God saw fit to anoint Jesus by a sinful woman. Others discussed other things. Then my friend continued with his own answers to the discussion questions.
"I have been living a foreign country, serving with my family for the last five years. It hasn't always been easy. In fact, looking back on five years, though I can identify small things we have done, we really haven't seen the fruit we hoped for. I began to ask myself. What if I never was able to return, what if all that we have invested never turns into tangible result? I like tangible results, that is why I got into this work in the first place! Will these ten years have been a waste?"
I thought about this question in my own life. What if the years of language survey in Nigeria never really meant anything, never helped anyone to know the story of Jesus? What if I had lived far away from home and learned the language and culture and it never became anything? I had certainly felt at times far removed from the impact I long for.
My friend continued, "That is the same question the disciples were asking of Jesus. 'Why this waste?' Yet Jesus answer shows that he didn't consider it a waste. In fact, it has a specific purpose, to prepare his body for his burial. And when she poured out her perfume on Jesus, he considered it such an important use, that whenever the story would be told, her use of that perfume would be told and discussed as well. Nothing poured out on Jesus is a waste."
Those last words have lingered with me some time, and they even popped up in a recent "prayeragraph" e-mail I sent out. I spend a lot of time talking about strategy and adjusting the way we do things to ensure that we get the results we want. I firmly believe in regularly reflecting on what we are doing and making changes when it isn't working. But there are times when we do something for Jesus, and we may not see the results. But if I am really doing all that I do for Jesus, if I am really pouring myself out for Jesus, I know it is not a waste.Please pray for me (Zach), for our family, and for all those we work with in Nigeria and around the world. We don't want to get distracted. We want each moment to be spent for Jesus. Pray that whether in the exciting things, such as when we finally interact with people on the field, or in the mundane, such as quarterly reports and strategy meetings, our decisions, actions, and communication will all be for Jesus.