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The Beauty of Wasting Time

Parents of young children will no doubt know the challenge of getting children off to school in the morning. In our household, the walls echo with a chorus of parental decrees: “Brush your teeth.” “Don’t forget your homework.” “Make sure you grab a facemask.” Don’t get me wrong; as parents, we do our best to instill self-sufficiency in our children, but making the carpool line on time often trumps even the noblest of parenting intentions. 

Once everyone is loaded into the car and just as we begin to slide out of the driveway, a surprising and inexplicable phenomenon occurs. Mental light bulbs rapidly illuminate in the back seat. There is a sudden remembering: “I forgot my book.” “I forgot my snack.” “I forgot my project.” Before you know it, the plan to arrive at school 15 minutes early is now just a distant memory.

Morning routines with small children are, in a word, inefficient. What should normally only take 15 minutes often takes twice as long. This is because children don’t care about efficiency. They are only concerned with playing and being in the moment. They are blissfully wasteful with their time. There is something beautiful about this—even for a frustrated parent.

In the Gospel reading from today from Mark 14, we read about a woman being “wasteful” with an expensive jar of perfume.
“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. Some of those present were saying indignantly to one another, “Why this waste of perfume? It could have been sold for more than a year’s wages and the money given to the poor.” And they rebuked her harshly. “Leave her alone,” said Jesus. “Why are you bothering her? She has done a beautiful thing to me.” (Mark 14:3-6)

The key to understanding both the woman’s action and Jesus’ affirmation of it is to understand it in terms of worship and devotion to the Lord. Jesus doesn’t want us to be wasteful per se. We are called to be good stewards of both our time and our resources. Yet, above all, Jesus desires our worship. This is what the woman gets right. She anoints Jesus with her most valuable possession—perfume—in an act of worship. And Jesus calls this “a beautiful thing.”

In our busy and fast-paced world, finding time to spend with Jesus can feel wasteful. With so many other things to do with our time, pausing to be with the Lord is certainly “a beautiful thing” in the eyes of Jesus.
The Rev. Alex D. Graham III
Associate for Children and Family Ministries
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