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I’ve always known that you can’t get cleaned up for church, so to speak; the cleansing comes after redemption and not before. And I’ve always known that I could never bring something fit for my King. But I’ve brought many a gift wrapped in good intentions, wanting to be accepted, despite the fact that I was trying to win something I had already been given.

The Lord keeps bringing me back to the story of a widow whose husband left her in debt; a debt not procured by his idleness but by his faith, because he would not comply with the king’s way of worship. A woman whose sons were about to be enslaved by a creditor, who was about to lose everything. A woman who was left with only a jar of oil.

I’m sure she stood there for agonizing moments, not knowing what to do. Wondering why the Lord didn’t somehow bring about deliverance.

This widow, she cries out to Elisha the prophet, the voice of the Lord, for help. He tells her, “Go around and ask all your neighbors for empty jars. Don’t ask for just a few.” And when she returned with the jars, she was to shut her door and pour out her oil into the empty vessels (2 Kings 4:3-4).

The widow doesn’t contemplate whether or not to obey. She doesn’t consider the absurdity of the request. She’s desperate. So she sends her sons out to collect empty jars from their friends and neighbors. And pretty soon the room is filled with empty earthen vessels.

There she stands, this woman and her sons, surrounded by borrowed emptiness. She begins to pour from her small jar of oil. One by one, all the empty jars are filled. She goes running back to Elisha; he tells her to sell the oil, pay her debt, and live with her sons on the rest (2 Kings 4:7).

I can’t stop wondering what she did at that moment when her sons were saved and their future was secured. Did she weep? Did she dance before the Lord? Did she stand in that room with those jars full of oil, speechless?

I stand here contemplating the difficulties of the year that has just passed and wonder what may come in the new year—what joys and what tribulations. 

I think about what was required for the widow’s miracle, and what is required for mine. I look at these empty hands, lifted up before God with no good gift to bring. And I remember how the widow was scared, how the creditor was coming and those boys were looking at their momma with fear. How, in desperation, she began to set out jars in anticipation of the Lord’s filling. 

So I begin to set them out, one by one—empty jars. Not just a few. Until there’s room for no more. For my needs are many and varied. I shut the door and wait.

I turn over my uplifted hands so that anything left of me can spill out on the floor. I empty myself before Christ—empty myself of seeming control and earthly efforts, of doubt and unbelief—so that he can fill me with his grace.

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