I am a newly transplanted resident of Atlanta. I rented this really great little condo that is nestled between a public library, bus stop, and the local Presbyterian church, that apparently runs some type of homeless ministry; I encounter a lot of foot traffic around my building. The other day, one of my dear friends from back home, who happens to live up here, came over to check out my new place. We decided to take our dogs on a walk to check out the neighborhood. As we exited the building, a ragged-looking old man who depended on the aid of a crutch approached us as we uncomfortably tried to hurry away. In the distance, I heard him ask for 75 cents as we quickly moved along. Up the street, we stopped at a swanky pet store, and I got excited to see there were machines out front to get treats for the dogs. We started digging through our purses for quarters when the same man came hobbling up behind us asking some well-off-looking woman for 75 cents. Of course, at this moment, the machine malfunctions—I’m now flustered and trying to shove the quarters in the stupid thing with this whole exchange happening behind me. It suddenly hit me—here I am taking time to buy a treat for my dog when I couldn’t even give this man the time of day. That normally still, small voice screamed at me saying, “You missed it! You missed who was right in front of you.” We often miss the opportunity to see Jesus in others.
Mark 14:3-9 depicts Jesus’ anointing at Bethany. I picture Jesus relaxing at the table in the Leper’s house, likely tired from having just addressed the Pharisees, Sadducees, and Scribes, when this woman enters and anoints Jesus with an entire jar of expensive nard. The Indignant others in the room, with good intentions mind you, freak out on the woman. Jesus basically tells them, “Look, guys! You’ve missed it! You’ve missed what’s happening right in front of you. This faithful act of service is beautiful as she has prepared my body for burial.” This woman acted on the opportunity to serve Jesus when the others didn’t recognize who was in their midst.
Who would have thought that seminary would complicate life so much? Life does not stop and it’s beyond easy to get distracted with everyday life. Family, friends, children, church (you fill in the blanks) pull us in a million directions likely with good intentions. Then, pile on school, and it’s easy to miss how God is calling to us in the moment. We easily miss The Spirit present with us and present in the world around us—even in seminary believe it or not!
This woman who anointed Jesus exemplifies everyday faithful living in the present moment. She was aware of something whispering in her heart and she responded. She must have felt some call or pull, and she faithfully responded in that moment. We are each here at Candler in response to the vocational call God has placed on our lives. In the midst of the craziness, when we intentionally seek a connection with the Holy Spirit, we can experience the fullness of transformation. It is then we can claim The Spirit within us, woven into the very nature of who we are, and actually recognize God as a part of our makeup, present in who we are.
What is faithful living? How do we do it daily? My mother always gives the best advice. She told me this one time in response to my grumbling about discerning my call. She said, “Emily, when I get up, I pray ‘How can I be faithful to you today, God? Not yesterday or tomorrow but today!’” I write with encouragement as we hit the middle of the semester, that we may be ever aware and recognize the Christ that is present with us. Let us be intentionally aware of that still, small voice that is a part of our design, as we ask God, “How can we be faithful servants to you today?”
Emily is a first-year MDiv and student ambassador at Candler. She lived and worked in Ocala, FL, before relocating to Atlanta.
Artwork: “Anointing His Feet” by Wayne Forte, oil and acrylic on canvas.