One magnificient May morning a few years ago, while visiting friends in Maryland, I arose early to take a walk. I couldn’t wait to get outside because Maryland is delightful in the springtime. The brisk wind spurs the Chesapeake to dance on the shore.The emerald grass rushes from side to side. The flowering trees on the rolling hills sway like a southern belle carrying a jug of sweet tea to her man plowing the field. Talk about inviting. It's gorgeous.
As I strolled through my friend’s neighborhood, I observed home after attractive home. Some of the buildings were brick contemporaries. Others were crisp, white farm houses, or Mid-Atlantic salt boxes. I pondered deeply about my love affair with architecture and Better Homes and Gardens.
All my life I’ve been drawn to beautiful homes. As a teenager, I drove through the “uptown” neighborhoods and fawned over the sprawling, southern abodes on gas-lighted streets. How I dreamed of having a large house decorated with all my favorite things. Now I am grown up, and I have had several lovely homes. One of which, I loved too much. Although I needed to sell it because I was in dire financial straits, I had conditions. As I prayed to get relief from the financial burden that was plaguing me, God whispered to my heart, “It’s just an Empty Box.”
“Well maybe so,” I retorted to God, “but I’ve had much nicer homes like the one in Frederick and even the marital residence that I had to ditch after the divorce was comparable if not nicer than these.” I thought to myself, “Those houses had nothing broken, ugly, or out of place—not like that mess I currently live in. Well, sort of…..”
As I walked on, my mind changed channels. God was gently knocking on my heart’s door. He was tenderly calling me to look at where I was and who I was when I lived in those nice ‘boxes’. “Remember,” He whispered, “The houses were like the alabaster box. The box appeared expensive and magnificent, but it wasn’t the outside of the box that made it special. What made the box valuable was the fragrant oil inside.”
At that moment, I started to cry. The homes were just status symbols. They symbolized wealth, position, and most of all security. Despite the appearance of security and safety I thought the houses gave me, I recalled how lonely, disconnected, and miserable I was when I lived in them. When I really reviewed the tape in my mind, I realized that when I lived in those alabaster boxes, I was just as empty as they were. It was agonizing.
Hot tears started falling down my cheeks. Oh, my soul. Although the house I loved had become a ridiculous financial burden, I realized I was putting an empty, alabaster box that would disintegrate into dust before God. I felt humbled. Immediately, I asked God to forgive me for demoting him and putting my trust in temporal things. I begged God to do what He wanted with His house. I placed the ‘box’ in his hands and thanked him for bringing me to the end of myself. I praised him for the financial adversity He had brought us through.
Having two homes was so extremely difficult, but it helped me grow and learn so much. Although the mess that I currently live in seems broken, ugly, and not quite right, it is full and so am I. The big point is not that it is not the wrapping that matters, but the gift inside. Our gift is not the alabaster box, but precious, sacred oil of Jesus.
Points to Ponder
- What “Empty Box” are you putting before God?
- Are you empty, could you use a little sacred oil?
When a woman who had lived a sinful life in that town learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee's house, she brought an alabaster jar of perfume...
Matthew 26:7 (NIV)
A woman came to him with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, which she poured on his head as he was reclining at the table.
Mark 14:3 (NIV)
While he was in Bethany, reclining at the table in the home of a man known as 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.