The late Michael Yaconelli wrote a number of things about honest faith. He was familiar with the highs and lows of walking the spiritual path. He famously said that faith was “messy”, a term that I have found to be very useful. Sometimes faith is expressed in a mountaintop experience, other times it is about living in the valley. Either way, it is about being honest and following through to the end of the journey, whether the day to day walk, or the lifetime search for God.
There is a remarkable faith journey that involved a woman named Gertie, who at 76 years old told her pastor she wanted to start a ministry. While many people at her age were taking more and more time for leisure, she wanted to be more involved in making a difference. The pastor encouraged her to follow the longing God placed on her heart.
Gertie loved photography, so she began taking pictures of the youth when they would come to church. On the back of each photo she would write a small biography of the kids and then pray for their needs, asking them for updates as they grew older and their needs changed.
For ten years she did this with countless kids, memorizing their names and faces and praying for each one. One day the pastor shared with Gertie that he didn’t want to wait for her funeral for people to honor her, he wanted to have a memorial service now so people could thank her in person for her kindness.
Some of the kids she knew were now adults with children of their own. In droves they came back for the memorial service, sharing how Gertie’s kindness changed their life.
At the end of the service a few high school kids waited towards the back of the sanctuary, hiding a special gift under a blanket. When the time came they walked down the aisle towards Gertie, barely able to contain their enthusiasm.
Gertie loved perfume, especially Estee Lauder’s “Beautiful”. The kids pulled back the blanket to reveal they had purchased a large bottle of “Beautiful” for this special occasion. Then they explained, the bottle was not for Gertie to take home, it was for now. They opened the bottle and anointed her feet with the perfume, thanking her for a decade of love. It was a symbolic act that was reminiscent of the woman who poured tears and perfume on the feet of Jesus as a show of gratitude.
Indeed, it is the people closest to us that make the most difference in our lives, and in whose lives we can have the most impact. Our simple acts of kindness, what Mike Yaconelli calls our “thin sacrifices”, may go unnoticed by the masses, but to the ones in our circle of influence, they are a sweet fragrance of grace. May we daily seek ways to be such a vessel of kindness, making a difference in the lives of the people we daily meet.