There is so much emphasis on "going viral" these days. Everyday people like you and me constantly read stories about everyday people who manage to find the pulse of our culture, and suddenly they wake up with a fan base in the multi-millions.
Even if we don't want fame and glory, there's something about watching this happen that can assign an unspoken value to whatever we spend our time doing. We can start to believe that if we are doing something right, our work is going to get noticed by the digital world.
Things are so different now from the culture of my grandmother's generation. She spent hours following magazine directions for sewing, needlework, and home decorating -- just for the sheer pleasure of living somewhere beautiful. Local writers poured their hearts into creating essays for the local paper. Local musicians practiced for church on Sunday mornings. Mothers spent long afternoons making lovely meals that five people would enjoy before they disappeared forever.
These folks never expected a huge audience. They were content to be content with working wonders in a lovely little corner of the world.
There's nothing inherently wrong with going viral. In fact, it's great that people with hard questions and heavy hearts can tap into the gifts of common folks and find companionship. But I think it's important to pull the pressure out of that possibility and name it for what it is and isn't. A little clarity can help the rest of us move on into living unburdened, generous lives.
Do you remember that story in Mark 14 where a woman with an alabaster jar of expensive perfume comes before Jesus and wastes it by pouring it on his head? Her love for Him made her reckless with the best of what she had. She was so focused on Jesus in that moment that she did something radically beautiful that would disappear overnight.
But I love how Jesus receives the gift. He looks beyond the wild extravagance that the woman thought she was offering and makes it even bigger. He places her act of love on the trajectory of eternity.
Scroll forward a few days, and we see how after Jesus died he was buried too quickly to have spices applied to his body. The women who loved Him would come to prepare His body in the tomb, but they would find Him already risen. So this woman's alabaster jar full of perfume was the only anointing the Lord received for burial. An act that was sure to be obscure, a wasteful impulse of hidden beauty, became epic.
And yes, that creative offering went viral. "Truly, I tell you, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her." It's like Jesus is holding up a regular person like you and me to show us that He sees us. It's like He's letting us know that - even if we feel unseen and sometimes foolish for our excesses - all this beautiful waste of ours is sacred in His eyes when offered with the right heart.
Oh, wasteful creators. You who get up and do those silly works of good that go unreported... You who burst your alabaster jars in quiet rooms in quiet towns... You hand-stitchers, you scrawlers of pretty capital letters, you painters of second-hand furniture... You who give an entire afternoon to kneading loaves of homemade bread because your husbands looked weary this morning... You who sit down to color dinosaur pictures with your toddlers... You who sit at the piano for an hour trying to find the next line of a song nobody will ever hear... You who teach immigrants to read before they pass into an unknown future... You who sit down and write letters to Compassion children and add stickers to the bottoms of the pages... You writers of poems only five people read.
You are bursting your alabaster jars to pour fragrance on the head of Jesus. You are preparing a passing world for burial, a world that will one day rise again.
God who said that whatever we do to the least of our acquaintances we have done to Him, so surely He receives our faith-propelled creativity with the same warmth as he received that woman of Mark 14. Imagine that for a moment.
Every time you give of yourself to make the world more beautiful for those in need, you do go viral... not in the world of URLs or Instagram followers... but in that realm where the six-winged Seraphim fly, and where the morning stars sing together, and where all the sons of God shout for joy. If you could see what you were really doing, if the curtains of heaven were pulled back, would you fall to your knees and weep?
Would you see that "you have never met a mere mortal?" Would you see that you have never exercised your imago Dei (the image of God) by hovering over chaos to divide light from darkness without also anointing the head of your King?