During the last week of his life, Jesus was in the town of Bethany when an unnamed woman came to him with an alabaster jar full of a very expensive perfume, worth more than a year's wages. She broke the jar and anointed Jesus, pouring the perfume on his head.
Some of the people who saw what the woman did "rebuked her harshly," criticizing her for wasting the perfume when she could have sold it and given the money to the poor. But Jesus wouldn't hear it and told the woman's critics to leave her alone: "She has done a beautiful thing to me. . . . She did what she could. She poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial." (Mark 14:7-8)
What strikes me the most about this passage is Jesus' words quoted above: "She did what she could." And for that, he honors her, and assures her that her deeds will be remembered wherever the gospel is preached in the future (verse 9).
I think that so often, we convince ourselves that we must serve God in grandiose ways, in ways that will get noticed and respected by others, and even sometimes in ways that force us to squeeze ourselves into roles we weren't meant to play, or to take on tasks we haven't been given the skills and abilities for. In an achievement-saturated culture, it's so easy to believe that we must stretch ourselves beyond our own abilities just to accomplish more for the Lord.
If you've fallen into the trap of thinking this way, I encourage you to take some of the same comfort from this passage as I have this week. Just as Jesus said of this woman, who served him in the purest way possible, not looking for the approval or commendation of others, "She did what she could," so may He be saying to you, "You did what you could." And it honors Him.
We don't always have to be on the front lines watching miracles happen, or moving mountains with our faith, or leading other people to a closer walk with Christ. Those dramatic moments will surely happen at the right times, and we must be prepared to serve the Lord in them. But we need also, when the time is right, to forget about the approval of others, to forget trying to achieve more and more for the Lord, to stop pushing ourselves beyond what we can ever reasonably do, and to just pause, take what is already in our hands, and with it simply do what we can. And it will honor Him.