Thursday, June 14, 2012

Waste and Worship

I traveled from Raleigh to Nashville to attend her conference, leaving my family for the first time since Webb’s death.  Few are able to touch the raw edges of pain with such truth and gentleness as she does in her writing and in her speaking.  Her words are strung together by a golden thread of grace, and I would travel the world to brush just one of her beads of blessing.  But when words that I thought would be balm for my wounds only served as salt, I began to feel like it was all a little bit too much, a little bit too soon.

I left the church sanctuary the moment that she began to speak of the death of her younger sister.  I stood up and walked out at the first word of detail that she offered.  I scooted past a room packed full of women who traveled near and far to receive the wisdom, the words and the beauty that He would bring through her.  The steps that brought us to this place vary, but we all walk in the same direction and desire the same thing.  We all came together to meet Him through her.  We came to worship.  Only I could not bear the pain that she described, and I left the conference only moments after it began.    

I thought I would be soaking up the words of a woman who drips honey to my soul, but instead I find myself alone in the bathroom, grief swelling within.  As my head collapses into my hands, and the hot tears pour over, I whisper, “What a waste.  What a waste.”  Surely it was a waste of money to travel this far.  Certainly it was a waste of time and effort to make all of the arrangements for the boys.  Undoubtedly, I wasted the small amount of emotional and spiritual strength that I possessed to leave my family, only to return home without even the smallest pearl of wisdom from her lips.  I came for wisdom, words and beauty.  I came for worship.  But now I feel sure that coming here was quite simply, just a waste. 

As the tears burn the skin of my face and the hand of a friend gently strokes my back, I think of another woman who knew what it was to “waste.” She came to Jesus.  She brought Him an alabaster jar, filled with expensive perfume. I don’t know if she came out of desperation or out of adoration, or perhaps like me, it was a little bit of both.  What I do know is that, she came.  She broke the jar, poured out the perfume, and she wet His feet with her tears. And when all the others cried out to her, “Why this waste?” Jesus called her act beautiful.  When men explained to her all of the more important things that she could have done with what little she had, Jesus replied, “She did what she could.”[1] Together, with this woman, I break, I pour out, and I wet His feet with my tears.   I give to Him what others and myself might name as waste, in hopes that He might receive it as worship. 

We all came for wisdom, words and beauty.  We all came to worship.  And worship, we did, in the sanctuary and in the stall. As I find my breath, I hear His words, “She has done a beautiful thing…She did what she could.”  For perhaps it is right here in the coming, the breaking, and the pouring, that waste becomes worship. 

[1] Matthew 26:7, Mark 14:4, Luke 7:44, John 12:3-4