Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | October 23, 2008

A Wasted Life

A Page from My Journal | Kurdistan | October 21, 2008

Heather Mercer

As we sat around the dinner table this evening, we waded deeper and deeper into conversation about service. Heather Mercer shared the following personal story with us that caused us to consider how others sometimes perceive those who serve in terrible places.

While home on a brief furlough, Heather’s mom took her to the local beauty salon for some much-deserved pampering – the kind you can’t really get in the obscure places Heather calls home. Accustomed to the “Oh, you’re thaaat Heather Mercer” kind of attention, it was no big deal when her presence in the salon turned the tide of conversation. Each stylist related highlights of Heather’s story to their respective captive audiences of one. They talked about her arrest and imprisonment by the Taliban, her current work among the Kurds, and more.

Then, something unexpected happened. While Heather was savoring a little slice of pampering, a stranger walked across the salon and stopped in front of her. The woman planted her hands on her hips, looked directly at Heather, and bluntly said, “So, you’re the nutty one who is wasting her life among those people in Iraq.” With her verbal dribble still splattered across Heather’s shocked expression, the woman then turned and walked away.

The world does not understand the value of a wasted life, nor does it understand that in the kingdom we always descend into greatness. We always lose to gain or to turn a popular phrase: “No waste. No gain.” Jim Elliot once said, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.” Jim lost his life at the end of a spear. A wasted life? Some might think so, but not the One whose judgment matters more than that of people like the woman in the hair salon.

The world does not understand the value of a wasted life. That kind of thinking runs counter to the cultural currents that usher people into the comfortable pews of selfish living. These devoted disciples can recite chapter and verse of the Gospel According to Madison Avenue. And, when the offering plate is passed, they are the most cheerful of givers. They often leave with evangelistic zeal and never miss an opportunity to bless themselves. Jeremiah the prophet understood what really makes a life worthless. He would have shouted the truth on Madison Avenue, “You have followed worthless idols and become worthless yourselves” (Jeremiah 2:5).

Many in Jesus’ day failed to grasp the significance of waste – of giving all to Jesus. While visiting in the home of a man known as Simon the Leper in Bethany, a woman with a very expensive jar of perfume approached Jesus. Then, something unexpected happened. “She broke the jar and poured the perfume on His head” (Mark 14:3). That shocking act of devotion provoked this review from observers in the room: “Why this waste of perfume?” The only thing sadder than those words is coming to terms with all of the jars of unused perfume many of us cling to. What will it take for us to break the jar and release the sweet fragrance of waste for the One who has given us everything?

Let’s determine to look for Jesus in the distressing disguise of those in need. Let’s look for him among the poor, the ragged, the hungry, and the forgotten. And then, when we find Him, let’s break a jar of perfume and release the sweet fragrance of selfless service. And never forget that the world would be a better place if more of us chose to waste our lives. So, go waste your life!

• • • • •

PS | Thanks for your continued prayers for our team. We welcomed one of our Kurdish translators into the family of God yesterday!


  1. When I got to paragraph 4, I remembered a song that our choir once sang called “I Believe”

    …’I say on Sunday how much I love revival and then on Monday, I can’t even find my bible. Where’s the power, the power of the cross in my life?’

    Enjoyed this one. Thanks.

  2. Thank you so much for all you do, and for taking the time to journal it for us in your inimitable way. I especially love the P.S. on this entry – “We welcomed one of our Kurdish translators into the family of God yesterday!” That’s what it’s all about, isn’t it?

    Blessings, Omar.

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