This morning I discovered what I want for my epitaph.

(No, I’m not dying. At least, not any faster than anyone else. I just think about these things.)

I read it in this passage in Mark:

While he was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he was reclining at table, a woman came with an alabaster flask of ointment of pure nard, very costly, and she broke the flask and poured it over his head. There were some who said to themselves indignantly, “Why was the ointment wasted like that? For this ointment could have been sold for more than three hundred denarii and given to the poor.” And they scolded her. But Jesus said, “Leave her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. For you always have the poor with you, and whenever you want, you can do good for them. But you will not always have me. She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for burial. And truly, I say to you, wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her.”

Mark 14:3-9

She has done what she could. What a beautiful thing for Jesus to say about Mary.

This statement recognizes her limitations, but also her faithfulness to use what she possessed to the degree that she was capable.

He didn’t compare this single act of service to her sister Martha’s well-known reputation for serving. He didn’t join those who scolded her for wasting her gift instead of using it in a more practical way. He didn’t hold her up to an impossible standard.

Instead he honored her humble, costly, loving offering with the recognition that she had done the very thing that was within her grasp, the one meaningful thing that lay within her realm of possibility, and that nothing more could be asked of her.

I don’t know about you, but sometimes I am kept awake at night by a litany of failures. Other nights I feel the burden of not knowing how to respond to overwhelming needs in this world. I am sorely aware of my limitations.

But as I read this passage this morning, I could hear the Spirit asking me, as God asked Moses from within the burning bush, “What do you have in your hand?”

What is the one thing in my possession? What is my breaking and pouring out? What fragrance from my hands can fill this space?

What is my offering?

I cannot compare what rests in my hands with what others possess. What I have is mine, be it little or much. And only I can steward what I have.

These are joyous, comforting thoughts to me this morning. Faithfulness is the measuring stick by which Jesus measures success. And by God’s grace, in the power of His Spirit, faithfulness is within the grasp of any one of us.

So, friend, I ask you—what’s in your hand? What has God given you?

I hope that, at the end of all things, it can be said of each of us, “She has done what she could.” God asks no more than that.


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