Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume (John 12:3 NIV).
Friend to Friend
There we sat in my mother-in-law’s living room, still coming to terms with her terminal cancer diagnosis. To make matters worse, she had an unfortunate fall that resulted in a broken shoulder and need for 24-7 care. The timing of this crisis was overwhelming. We were right in the middle of wedding planning for our oldest daughter and a heavy travel schedule for my husband. We had plenty of dashed hopes for some summer downtime for the whole family. Yet our plans paled in comparison with the reality that this was the season in which we found ourselves and the last opportunity to serve my mother-in-law well.
That reality felt harder than hard.
Maybe you’ve been there too. Or maybe not. I’ve noticed that for some, this “rise to the occasion” kind of situation isn’t the least bit overwhelming. With a “just do it” kind of zeal, there are folks who can pivot and balance and get the job done. However, for others, like me, it can be a struggle. Maybe that is how you feel too.
It isn’t only the adjustment of plans that I balk at. There is also an ongoing battle between my flesh and the Spirit when it comes to serving others. Whether it’s fixing a meal for my family, running an errand for someone in need, or rallying efforts during a crisis like this one with my mother-in-law, I struggle. The problem is the attitude adjustment that needs to happen within my heart, where a grumbling and irritated spirit threatens to make a mess of everything. Of course, this is no secret to the Lord. He sees right through my “fake it until you make it” façade with a mission to accomplish the deeper work of making me more like Christ.
This time, His work was accomplished through a family friend who dropped by at the perfect moment to see my mother-in-law. After the usual small talk, she acknowledged the hard place in which we found ourselves. With wet eyes and a shaky voice, she also confessed how God led her through a transformation journey in a recent season of serving her mother. “Unto the King,” she declared boldly, describing how God urged her to adjust her life and focus to meet her mom’s needs with purpose, humility, and kindness.
She reminded me of the remarkable way Mary served Jesus shortly before His death on the cross. The scripture describes how she “took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume [and] poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume” (John 12:3). I can only imagine how the aroma of sacrificial love and servanthood filled that space. And yet, I may have responded like the disciples, who were “indignant” and viewed this as a waste. Jesus, on the other hand, described this act as a “beautiful thing,” done to prepare His body for burial (Matthew 26:10-12).
We have a moment-by-moment choice to do a beautiful thing through serving others as unto the King.
Whether it is tending to the needs of a child or parent, friend or neighbor, our acts of service and the attitude of our heart, matter much to God. The situation may not always be as profound as this one before me, but they all are priceless before the Lord. No, this season we’re in may not be as we imagined, but doubt God’s purposes will prevail as His kingdom plans are accomplished. May we simply have a willing heart to join Him in it as we move into service as unto the King.
Dear Lord, thank You for being gracious with us when we struggle to serve in the Spirit. Please, God, give us the vision to see the opportunity to embrace “the beautiful thing” in pouring all of what we have out to serve You well. May we live with the mindset that our actions matter much to You as much as the state of our heart as we chose to serve others as “unto the King.”
In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Now It’s Your Turn
How does having a perspective of doing a “beautiful thing” in the way Jesus described Mary pouring out the perfume on Him change how you see the idea of serving your family and friends?
What comes to mind when you hear the expression “unto the King” considering the opportunities God has laid before you to serve others?
More from the Girlfriends
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© 2021 by Elisa Pulliam. All rights reserved.
Thank you for the reminder to “Serve unto the King!” Normally, it’s at a place we’d prefer to avoid but here we stand. In similar situations, our family struggled and strived through devastating, unexpected terminal diagnosis. To watch it unfold before your eyes, to know that there’s only so much you can do or unwilling to do, including “Letting go,” exhausting. Let go of the plans for your future together, they changed. Let go of the reality to see the golden years, have more time, etc., that’s not an option. Let go of the lifelong bonds, special times past, present, and future, well, now that’s God’s business.
All we can do is choose to love them to their core, with the promises of Jesus in our hearts. We can play inspirational music, read scriptures, share memories, and sit still beside them while God works in the individual’s and family’s lives. You watch the body struggle, fight, then release itself to the spirit. It’s not always pretty! It’s not easy! It’s not wanted…but that’s where you are and your faith, family, and friends will help carry you through the days from pain to peace, in Jesus name!!!
This hit me like a ton of bricks
Thank you, so much for this beautiful devotion of this Bible passage.
A church sister and I are “in training” for a serve program through our church.
I had my light-switch- moment, when reading this passage and with Jesus’ interaction with the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well (John 4).
We are built through our Salvation, to become the “hands and feet” of Jesus. Serving others: the broken, the marginalized….becomes automatic if we can think the person we are serving is an action, that Jesus would have done!
You have made this devotion into a powerful testimony.
You have given me a blessing this am. I pray for continued blessings to you in your writing ministry.
I am in the midst of moving to be closer to my mom to help care for her. I love what was said about taking care of her mother with purpose, humility and kindness. I have seen this done by a loving and caring friend of mine so I do have an example of what it looks like. I’ve just not done it so this will be a drastic attitude adjustment for me that is needed to be done ASAP. I thank God for this message.
I also enjoyed the line about serving your mom (others) “with purpose, humility, and kindness.” It reminded me of Col 3:23-24, “And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, 24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ.” and Matthew 10:42, “And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is my disciple, truly I tell you, that person will certainly not lose their reward.” Thank you.
Shirley, thank you for sharing your story with me. I am so sorry for the struggle you found yourself in also. The theme of “letting go” is not lost on me. It is my word/phrase for the year and God is teaching me about it in so many unexpected ways. In it all, we choose to love God and love others, right.
Bernadette, thanks for your honesty and humility. Praying for you as I hit submit on this comment.
Carol, your words of encouragement are also a testimony to me of what God is doing in your life. Thank you for sharing. Praying that God will continue to equip you to be the “hands and feet” and “mouthpiece” of His work!
Penney, I wish you could see my sister-in-laws in action. They demonstrate this kind of service so beautifully. From what you shared, it sounds like you already have an example before you and a willingness. I am praying for you right now to take confidence in God’s equipping of you. He is faithful!
Yes, exactly, Liz! That is a great verse to remember and apply. Thank you for sharing!