Six days before the Passover celebration began, Jesus arrived in Bethany, the home of Lazarus—the man he had raised from the dead. A dinner was prepared in Jesus’ honor. Martha served, and Lazarus was among those who ate with him. Then Mary took a twelve-ounce jar of expensive perfume made from essence of nard, and she anointed Jesus’ feet with it, wiping his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance.
– John 12:1-3 (NLT)
A little over a year ago our pastor asked us to think about one thing that we can’t live without. “Don’t say the Bible,” he said. “Think of something else.” A week ago our small group challenged us with the same question. My answer both times was the same: my vitamins and supplements.
It might sound like a weird answer to some, or it might sound like a totally reasonable answer to others of you who rely on supplements or medication to feel your best everyday. For me, the answer is not just physical. It’s emotional, mental, and spiritual, too.
One of the first things my specialist did when I was diagnosed with a health condition I never wanted to have, just after prescribing a whole lot of medication and walking me through the instructions for each of my doses, was to hand me a list of vitamins and supplements he wanted me to take. A four page list.
You can imagine my reaction.
But just in case, I’ll paint it out for you. It was something like, “You want me to take all this medication every single day and fork over the money for all of these vitamins and supplements, most of which I’ve never heard of and are probably some crazy voodoo magic thingy that will kill me?”
I was certain that God had led me to this incredible man after years of praying for healing, but I wasn’t certain about his directions. So I did what any reasonable person who was just diagnosed with three complicated diseases in one day would do. I took the medicine and told God, “I’m so grateful that You’ve led me to finally have a diagnosis. But I know you wouldn’t want me to buy all these crazy vitamin things and spend hundreds of dollars a month on them when I feel like I’m barely scraping by. So I’ll take this medicine, even though I don’t like it, and You will heal me in three months, right? That sounds totally reasonable and like such a long time to suffer.”
And it did. Three months sounded like an eternity, but at the same time I was sure that God could heal me in that time. He’d healed so many people in an instant all throughout the Bible, and I was going to swallow my pride and swallow my medicine, even though I hated the thought of a treatment that would initially make me sicker than the diseases, and cling on to Jesus for dear life.
Several months later I found myself in bed, full of pain and feeling like I’d made absolutely no steps forward in spite of thousands of dollars in medical bills, more pills than I could count on my hands and toes, and what I’d felt like was total surrender to my doctor’s orders. As I poured all of this out at Jesus’ feet and sobbed about how I was feeling, I couldn’t shake the little voice inside of me that kept asking the same question, “Are you really giving up control and doing everything I’ve asked you to do?” I knew the answer was no. When I called my specialist late one night, in pain and scared of what was going on inside of my body, he asked me, “Are you taking the supplements that I prescribed?” My heart sank inside my chest.
I dug up the four page list that my doctor had given me, and I called the special pharmacy he’d recommended the next day. Nothing about it was fun. It was expensive and overwhelming and scary to consider putting even more pills and powders inside my body when it was already unhappy with everything going on. But over the months, Jesus gave me a profound appreciation for what He’d asked me to do. He stepped into the situation with such mercy and grace and not only taught me about the vitamins and supplements I was taking (first with a random hand me down book from my mother and then with a semi-random book loaned to me by a friend at church) but ignited a new passion inside of me.
Suddenly I wasn’t afraid of these capsules and powders anymore. I was starting to understand them and why God had created vitamins and minerals to help our bodies and make us strong. I saw the hand of God in the healthy things around me, and I knew they were gifts of love. Prior to being diagnosed, I told myself that I was living a healthy life. But as I learned more, I acknowledged that I hadn’t been taking care of myself at all. If anything, my body had been pretty low on my priority list when in fact our bodies are very high priorities to God.
And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. – Romans 12:1-2 (NLT)
Over the next months and years, Jesus continued to carve a path to healing that included many changes in how I was honoring Him with my body: not just vitamins and supplements but healthy foods, a clean environment, and other changes I would have never expected to make or ever signed up for on my own.
For those of you going through a similar situation, I’ll be sharing more about the vitamins and supplements and other lifestyle changes that helped me care for my body on Pinterest.
But this story isn’t actually about any of those things. It’s about worship.
Romans 12:1-2 says that honoring God with our bodies is true worship. And last week in church our pastor shared another passage and asked another question. He shared the story of Mary, the sister of Martha, and how she broke a bottle of expensive perfume over Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. A disciple was shocked at this and found it to be expensive and extravagant. Couldn’t that money, a whole year’s wages, be used to feed the poor? To the observer, it didn’t make sense at all. (Of course the disciple in question was Judas, and we know his real motives!)
But Jesus defended Mary’s actions. She was worshiping. It was her expensive act of honoring God with one of the most valuable things she had. My pastor asked, do we worship Jesus extravagantly?
The path that Jesus has carved for me includes honoring Him with my body. And sometimes that is so, so expensive. And there have been many times I’ve made excuses as to why it can’t be done. But in my case, this is how God has asked me to worship. And when I’m doing it, really giving Him my body and taking care of it like the temple that it is, I feel my best. Not just physically but emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. My soul is singing to God. So as silly as it is, my vitamins are an act of gratitude and worship all in one for a God who chose to rescue me when He didn’t have to and who chose to teach me a better way of being.
What about you? Have you ever felt like God’s asking you to do something that seems like a whole lot to ask? Or is there any daily act that you take in your life that is worship even if it might not look like it to others?
Picture of a Happy Young Woman by Vera Kratochvil