The Vial

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Without remorse, she scooped the last of the cosmetics into the waste urn. The rose-petal rouge, the lead-sulfide eye shadow, and the chalky face whitener would no longer be needed. Yesterday, these products seemed essential for an aging woman in her line of work. Today, she cast them aside without value onto the layers of scented fabrics that she had culled earlier.

Good riddance,” she whispered aloud as she sealed the rubbish pot with its lid.

As she turned to the doorway, she knew that clearing the make-up shelf would be the easiest step in 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 in twenty-four hours, everything had changed within her.

Yesterday, in a moment of spontaneity, she’d decided to follow a crowd onto the hillside. But on that mountain, in a moment of clarity, she’d decided to pursue 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.

Sure, she’d heard speeches before. The scribes’ were lengthy and the Pharisees’ pompous. Neither had any credence with her, as some of both had shared her bed.

But this Man’s words were different. Different to the core. He seemed to speak the way He lived and live 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 had searched for her services. Upon the hillside, this Man had searched for her soul. And as she met His gaze, 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 one vial. That one precious bottle.

Even from across the room, she could smell the essence of the ingredient. Pure nard. She smiled faintly, remembering that even King Solomon enjoyed this fragrance. Her changed heart had not changed the value of the vial.

Her best-traveled client had paid her with this perfume. Delicate and expensive, both the vial and its contents set her apart, to the envy of her peers. She may have aged, but hers was the only couch 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 sparingly, but only a drop was potent enough for an entire evening. It was true essence, not the imitation 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 an inner glow. It was truly the only thing of value in her whole existence, she mused.

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 she wasn’t sure how to rectify her spiritual transformation with this sensual treasure.

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 reflect her repentance?

Then, as if she could hear His voice anew within her soul, light-flooded her understanding. She lifted the vial carefully from its place, slipped it within her pocket, and walked out onto the street with 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? Who are you using it for today?