After a dismal nine holes of golf, my dad and I were lamenting the tough breaks. “If only that stream had been ten yards further away, I wouldn’t have put it in the drink!” my dad observed. “Yeah,” I joined in, “and if only I’d used my 7 iron instead of my 5, I wouldn’t have overshot the green on the last hole.” Things got quiet as we sipped our Cokes in the clubhouse. “You know,” my dad reflected, “when if comes to golf, maybe the two words we need to remove from our vocabulary are ‘if’ and ‘only.’ ”
As in golf, so in life. In Mark 14, we find a remedy to the “if only” approach to living. A woman wondered what she had to offer the Lord. She may have been tempted to think: “If only I had been born rich, then I could contribute my wealth to the Master.” Then she remembered the jar of aromatic nard. She heard that Jesus was at the house of Simon the Leper. Timidly, she crossed the threshold and made her way toward the table. Perhaps Jesus smiled at her, giving her just enough courage to carry through with her plan. Opening the jar, she slowly poured the perfumed oil on his head. When others protested the lavish waste, the Lord scolded them. “Let her alone. Why do you trouble her?” (v. 6). Jesus insisted that the poor would always be with them, but the woman had done an incredibly loving and selfless thing:
“She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for its burial” (v. 8, NRSV).
Jesus affirmed: “She has done what she could.” There are lots of things that we cannot do. We can waste a lot of time pondering the “if onlys,” or we can get busy doing what we can, using what is at our disposal. It’s time to get beyond “if only.” It’s time to do what we can.
Reflection based on Scripture reading for Day 42, Cambridge Daily Reading Bible, 1995