Saturday, November 26, 2011

To China with Love - Part III: The Art of Breaking

“While he was in Bethany, reclining at the table in the home of Simon the Leper, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, made of pure nard. She broke the jar and poured the perfume on his head.”  -Mark 14:3

I have always loved the imagery of this story.  It stirs this sort of passion in my heart, a passion that led me to pen these words just over two years ago: “So I’ll pour out everything that I have, everything that I am, ‘til not an ounce of me is left in my hands.”  I long to live like the woman in this story!  I want to live a life abandoned to the will of God.  I want to give everything over, all the things that are most valuable to me, my life, my time, my gifts, my talent, my dreams, my heart, my past, present, and future...  I want to pour all my treasures out as an offering to the One who set me free.  And so when God asked me if I would say yes to a trip to China, I grabbed my proverbial alabaster jar and chased after Him with all my heart, ready to pour out everything I had to offer.

Reading this verse again after my time overseas, I notice a sequence of events I never noticed before.  “She broke the jar and poured the perfume on his head.”  I’m thinking back to those first few days in China, to the moment when I stepped off that plane and knew I was stuck alone in a foreign land for seven weeks.  I’m thinking about those nights spent on a hard bottom bunk feeling sick to my stomach because of the new food.  I’m thinking about how inept I felt because I didn’t know a word of the language, had no idea where I fit or what my job was, and couldn’t even use chopsticks!  I’m reliving the culture shock and the homesickness.  I’m remembering those questions of why is this so difficult?  What was I thinking?  When can I go home?  Generally, I try to forget those moments and leave them out of the stories I tell.  But I realize I can’t do that!  I can’t leave those parts out of the story, because those were my moments of breaking.  Those tearful, fearful nights when I found myself completely humble before God, when I realized how little I really had to offer, but still committed myself to giving everything… Those were the nights that broke my alabaster jar so that I could truly pour out.  Without those first days of struggle, I wouldn’t have realized my deep need for God.  I wouldn’t have begged for His eyes to see where He could use me.  I wouldn’t have learned to depend completely on Him and listen for His voice.  I would have missed out on so much! 

And that is my word for you, beloved.  Don’t forget the breaking.  Don’t ignore it.  Don’t be embittered toward it.  Don’t avoid it.  Surrender to it, and then watch what God does with all that pours out from that broken jar.