I was twenty-years-old and spending my first summer in Asia. The sub-tropical heat forced me indoors, so I retreated to my third floor room to spend solitary time before the Word of God and a singular, rotary fan.
All summer, a certain long-distance relationship had remained forefront in my mind. He was tall, dark and extremely cute, with a sense of humor that often caught me off-guard. Despite our happenstance first encounter on an airplane, we’d exchanged numbers and I’d seen him several times before this summer missions adventure.
He too was spending his summer overseas, with an assignment similar to mine, albeit in another country. His aerograms were filled with joy and depth, stories and Scripture, affection and interest. I’d heard him pray in person and now as I read his prayers put to pen, they only increased the growing interest I felt for this extraordinary young man.
As I listened to the oscillatory hum that afternoon, memories of childhood flooded my mind. Since my thirteenth birthday, I’d been praying for a future mate. Beginning with a request that he could wash dishes (since my dad did not), my requirements had grown over the years. Now, I included elements of prayer, Scripture, and leadership with this guy perfectly fitting the bill.
“Give Me this relationship,” came God’s Voice, so clearly I could almost hear Him audibly. Startled, I diverted my eyes to the open Bible on my lap. God spoke again in print.
“Take now… (the one) whom you love…and offer him there as an….offering” (Genesis 22:2).
I balked at such a request. “Wasn’t this exactly what I’d prayed for? Wasn’t this a relationship that could please God fully?”
“Give Me this relationship,” came the Reply.
I don’t know how long I hesitated. Nor how long I argued. The thought occurred to me that maybe I could just offer this to Him and He would stay my hand at the last minute — just like He had in Abraham’s case. But this, He did not do. As He continued to lead me up this mountain, it became crystal clear He wanted me to lay down the relationship. Finally and completely.
In an anguish of soul I hadn’t experienced to date, my prayer reached the appointed plateau. As an act of my will, I placed this relationship before the Lord and felt it severed from my soul. Sobbing and exhausted with internal distress, I lay him before the Lord.
Then, in a radiance whose memory still causes my heart to pulse, I saw the Lord. With brilliance of Light and glow of Presence, He lifted me into His rest. Splendor so filled my heart that any lack of the previous moment vanished amidst His fulness. Like sinking into a warm whirlpool on a frigid day, my entire being was immersed in His bathing Light. Resplendent, nourishing, invigorating, strengthening, His Light absorbed every dark place, gleaming without glaring. Diamond-brilliant without blinding.
His Light was worth it all. His Grandiose Presence was far better than my granulated present. None else could compare. I gazed with wide-open spiritual eyes at His Remarkable Countenance, realizing that in the very glimpse of Glory I was being transformed. He was crystal, transparent, flawless, brilliant, incorruptible….yes, indescribable. I bowed awe-struck and speechless, and to this day remain unable to fully describe His glory.
What is your well-loved Isaac? What do you need to lay before Him?
He asks for your gift
in order to give Him room
to fill you to overflowing.
Praise You that You are Light and in You there is no darkness at all (1 John 1:5). You are not afraid of the dark and go boldly into darkness so that Your radiance shines there (John 1:5). As I stand in Your Light, I clearly see the dark places still residing within me (Psalm 36:9). Send out Your Light and Your Truth to lead me into further Light (Psalm 43:3). I want to focus on Your remarkable Countenance with wide-opened eyes, so as to be filled with Your Glory (2 Corinthians 3:18). Enlighten the eyes of my heart to truly know You (Ephesians 1:18). In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Without remorse, she scooped the last of the cosmetics into the waste urn. The rose petal rouge, the lead-sulfide eye shadow, and the chalk face whitener would no longer be needed. Yesterday, these products seemed essential for an aging woman of her position. Today, they settled without value upon the layers of scented fabrics that she had culled earlier.
“Good riddance,” she whispered aloud as she topped the rubbish pot with its lid.
As she turned to her bolted doorway, she knew that clearing the shelf of make-up would be the easiest step of her new lifestyle. Out on the street, life would be a different story.
Outside, she was expected to be on call from dusk to daylight.
Outside, she was expected to be coy and alluring.
Outside, she was expected to wear her distinctive harlot’s veil.
Yes outside, the world expected her to be the same. Yet, she knew that the past twenty-four hours had changed everything within her.
Yesterday morning, in a moment of spontaneity, she’d decided to follow a crowd onto the hillside. Yesterday afternoon, in a moment of clarity, she’d decided to follow a Man Who would change her life.
He wasn’t just any man. After all, she knew men. She’d known far too many of them. And they had known her. Yet, none had pierced her as this One Man had.
He had spoken of feeding the hungry with satisfaction; of comforting the grieving with laughter; of rewarding the insulted with heaven. Of treating others just the way you wanted them to treat you. No one had ever cared about how she’d been treated.
Sure, she’d heard speeches before. The scribes’ were lengthy and the Pharisees’ pompous. Neither had any credence with her, as some of both those classes of men had shared her bed.
But this Man’s words were different. Different to the core. He spoke with His heart, not His hips. He spoke the way He lived and lived the way He spoke. He cared more about relationships, than reputation; humility more than desirability; faith more than flesh.
He’d mesmerized her with His words. And as the sun began to set and the crowd gradually dispersed, she’d remained – muddled, mystified, and magnetically drawn to Him. Down the hillside, a client was probably in search for her services. Upon the hillside, this Man had definitely searched for her soul. And with His gaze, as her eyes met His, she knew she would never be the same.
Could that have been just yesterday?
As her eyes adjusted to the lengthening shadows of her dusky room, she glanced again to the shelf she’d just cleared. Bare now, except for that one vial. That one precious bottle.
Even from her place across the room, she could smell the essence of it’s ingredients. Myrrh, frankincense, cardamom, cinnamon. Her changed heart had not changed the value of that vial.
Delicate and expensive, both the vial and it’s contents set her apart – made her the envy of all her peers. She may have aged, but hers was the only couch on the street that could boast such lavish extravagance.
The alabaster bottle was a masterpiece itself. Hand-carved from the finest Egyptian calcite, it replicated the vases on the shelves of palaces, or so she had been told.
She used the perfume within sparingly, but even a drop was potent enough for an entire evening. It was true essence, not the imitation stuff being sold at the spice market in town.
As she neared the shelf hesitantly, light from the window filtered through the translucent alabaster, giving the tiny bottle it’s own inner glow. It was truly the only thing of value in her whole existence, she mused.
“Until yesterday,” she smiled.
She bit her lip and pondered what she should do with it now. After all, she’d seen Truth face to face and no longer wanted to live a lie. “The Kingdom is within you,” He’d told her, but now rectifying a spiritual transformation with a sensual treasure wasn’t that easy.
In some ways, the alabaster vial remained precious to her, yet she knew she could no longer spend it as she had before. How could her actions today reflect her repentance of yesterday?
Then, as if His voice spoke anew within her, she lifted the vial carefully from it’s place on the shelf, slipped it within her pocket and walked out onto the street with the moisture of resolve in her eyes.
“And behold, there was a woman in the city who was an immoral woman; and when she learned that He was reclining at the table in the Pharisee’s house, she brought an alabaster vial of perfume, and standing behind Him at His feet, weeping, she began to wet His feet with her tears, and kept wiping them with the hair of her head, and kissing His feet, and anointed them with the perfume” (Luke 7:37-38).
What is your alabaster treasure that you still cling to? Who are you using it for today?