See if this day sounds familiar… Up at 4:15. Shower. Coffee. Quiet time and prayer but must be done by 5:15. Makeup. Hair. Clothes. In the kitchen by 5:45. Lunches. Kids’ Clothes. Husband’s coffee. Wake the kids. Dress Kids. Out the door by 6:20 with breakfast in hand (mine and the kids’). Drop one kid off and then at school by 7:00. Attempt to get work done while students are in and out and conversations are steady. Bell rings at 7:50 and teaching steady until 1:35. Planning. Meetings. Grading. Leave school by 4 (self-instated rule). Pick up other kid and head home. Dinner. Chores. Homework (mine and the kid’s). Possibility of sports and practice. Bathes. Sleep and repeat.
That is my hamster ball. That is what I do day in and day out. I am sure your day looks very similar. Your times and responsibilities may look a little different, but our limited minutes are the same. Busy. Busy. Busy.
And what is worse is that my mind is the same, if not busier. My train of thought is always running and will not stop at a station any longer than necessary. I keep a detailed calendar, lots of lists, notes and reminders, but whenever I empty one thought, another is there to take it’s place.
I think I am efficient. I think I am organized. Responsible. Capable, even. But God tells me that I am just busy. Psalms says “Be still and know that I am God.” If I am not still (mind and body), do I know he is God?
You may not have ever thought of busyness as a Biblical issue, but let’s take abiding, for example. John 15: 4 says, “Abide in Me, and I in you.” Yes, Abiding is being one with God, allowing him to live through you, but another definition of abiding is “to be.” So while I am working on so many areas – relationship, prayer, peace, worry, etc. – that help me (and hopefully you) abide, just “being” is an area where I totally missed the boat. I have no idea how to just be.
God has been dealing with my issue of busyness for a while now. I can remember sitting at my desk in my previous house about a year ago, praying about this same problem. I just felt worn out and lost in routine. It was the same thing day in and day out. I really couldn’t see the value of the years for the stress of the days. He was just beginning to reveal some things to me then, and as I study and spend more time with Him, over and over He reminds me of my busyness.
Ironically (or maybe not so much), God gifted me with some unexpected down time this summer, even though initially it came with disappointment. And my son has decided not to play football in the fall. I am a little sad about his decision because I love watching him play sports, but at the same time, I hear God reminding me of my busyness. I hear him saying “I will make time for you.” Because of course busyness doesn’t just affect me, it affects my family as well.
But I do believe God had me (and probably lots of other women) in mind when he chose to include the story of Mary and Martha in the Bible. Oh, Martha. Bless her heart. I can relate a little too much.
So as the story goes (Luke 10:38-42), Martha invites Jesus into their home. Martha does – not Mary, her sister – so obviously Martha recognizes who is in her house, which might be part of the problem. While Jesus is there, Mary sat at Jesus’s feet and listened to his teaching, but Martha kept herself busy with serving. I guess Martha gets tired of doing all the dirty work. And I get it because she wants to sit and listen to Jesus too but knows he is an important guest, so there are things that HAVE to be done. Finally, she complains to Jesus, “Don’t you care that my sister has left me to do all the work. Tell her to come help me.” I can read Martha’s mind here. You talk about serving. Hello, I am serving. My sister is not. Why do I have to do it all alone? Make her help. Jesus’s answer, however, probably surprises Martha. He basically says, “Mary made a good choice and it won’t be taken away from her.” Now if Martha were a southern belle, I could see her rolling her eyes, crossing her arms, and giving her best Humph! Then walking off to continue whatever job she knew needed to be done…
Or at least that may have been the way I would have reacted. Because, if you haven’t figured it out already, I am a Martha. While I work hard and stay busy like Martha, I have also complained in similar ways. But Jesus told us that Mary had “chosen the good portion, which would not be taken away from her.” So how do us Marthas learn to choose the good portion? How do we learn the balance of serving and sitting still? I mean we have to have workers too. What can we learn from Martha and Mary? How can their story help me still my body and mind?
Here are three things I take away from Martha and Mary:
First, Martha was “distracted with much serving.”
Like I said before, I stay busy. I always have something going on. And because I am a teacher, mom, wife, and active church member, much of what I do is serving others. Service is not a bad thing. We were called to be servants, to put others before ourselves. Jesus washed the feet of his disciples to show that we were never too good to serve.
The key word here is “distracted.” Yes, Martha was serving. Her heart was genuinely in the right place, but her priorities were not. She let the act of serving outweigh everything else in her life. Jesus was in her house for goodness sake and she couldn’t slow down enough to benefit from her visitor. He probably had words just for her, a message just for her, but she didn’t slow down long enough to listen (He, however, managed to get it in anyway. Don’t you think ?!?)
Are we really that different? I mean, you may be thinking Well, if Jesus was in my house I would certainly slow down and enjoy his presence. But would you? I know I don’t always. Because Jesus is in our house and he does have a word, a message for us, but we have to be willing to sit at His feet and listen. We have to be willing to open the Bible and really read it. We have to be willing to spend time in prayer. We have to be willing to slow our lives down enough so that we can gain wisdom from Him. So that we can hear the message he has for us.
Confession time: Many of you know I committed to getting up every morning and spending time in prayer and Bible study. To begin with, I had a nice floor pillow I would sit on and I would bow in “prayer.” Prayer is in quotation marks because what I really ended up doing was talking to God in the beginning and ending with planning my day and working through every other scenario in my head. It was about 10% prayer and about 90% me figuring things out and getting lost in my own thoughts. So, I began writing out my prayers. It keeps me focused and gives me a great record of my prayers. It was something I already did occasionally, but didn’t think it was necessary to do every day. Well, I was wrong. The Martha in me meant I needed something to keep me from getting distracted.
Second, Mary made a choice.
I will be honest. My initial reaction of Mary is lazy bones. She should have been up helping Martha. But that may be an unfair assessment of the situation. Like Martha, she obviously understood the gravity of just who was in their house. Only she chose to handle it differently. Instead of becoming “distracted by serving,” she chose to sit at the feet of Jesus and listen. We don’t know that this was an easy choice for her or that it was her first instinct like we may assume. She may have made a very deliberate decision to sit at the feet of Jesus. She may have recognized all that needed to be done but said that is just going to have to wait. Either way, Jesus said she made the good choice. She chose the “good portion.”
We too have a choice. I know, to begin with, when Jesus was just starting to deal with me, I thought But God, so much of what I deal with I don’t have any choice in the matter. I have to do homework with my child. I have to turn in lesson plans. I have to feed my family. There are so many things I have to do. But, if I am honest, there are “responsibilities” that I don’t HAVE to do and of the things I have to do, I don’t always have to do them to the level of Pinterest perfection we all strive for. A frozen pizza may have to be dinner one night if it means I practice being still for my family. A simple lesson plan without color-coded professional looking stations will work just as good, if it means I have time to be still and know that He is God.
We have to start choosing the “good portion” just as Mary did, even if we start small. Try finding just a few minutes in each day to sit still and enjoy Jesus and your family. Here are a few ideas I have heard. One, Joanne Kraft writes for Focus on the Family and she explains how we too can treat the Sabbath as an actual day of rest. It takes some prior planning, but it can be done. Maybe not every Sunday, but even just a few extra hours of stillness will go a long way to begin with. Choose not to do the laundry. Choose not to go to the store. Choose to sit with your family. Choose to go experience nature after church instead. I used to treat the time after church on Sunday as a day to prepare for the week ahead. In some ways I felt like I was getting better prepared for my week, but in other ways, I wonder if I was just opening up my schedule for more busyness.
Also, Emily Ley in her book Grace Not Perfection talks about cherishing the white spaces in our calendar, the times in our day that are not booked. We need to take advantage of the times that are not planned out for us. And more importantly, we need to make a choice to add some white space into our calendar. An entirely booked calendar is sometimes worn like a badge of honor in the world of motherhood. Instead, we should take pride in the moments that we intentionally block off for the purpose of just being still. Those are the moments that are really worth bragging about.
Finally, Jesus tells Martha He is the life.
So, Luke is not the only place we see Mary and Martha. In John 11, we see them in a much different situation. Their brother has just died and they are upset because they knew Jesus had the ability to heal him, but in their eyes, Jesus didn’t make it in time. Martha, being the go-getter that she is, went to meet Jesus as soon as she heard he was coming. In the course of their conversation, Jesus quotes what will come to be one of his famous “I AM” statements. He tells Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life.” As Lysa TerKeurst points out in her Bible study Finding I Am, Jesus intentionally told this one woman – Martha – this all important “I AM” statement.
As TerKeurst states, we really don’t know why Jesus may have chosen to tell Martha this statement as opposed to Jewish leaders or the disciples even, but I have an idea. I am a Martha. I am going to take action as opposed to sitting idle, just like Martha. I would be one to jump up and run and question Jesus, “What is going on? What happened?” I mean I wouldn’t let opportunities pass me by… Or would I? We stated earlier that Martha was “distracted with serving” and it doesn’t really appear that a whole lot has changed in this scripture. Martha was so distracted she was missing the opportunity of Jesus being in her house. How many times have I been so busy “serving” that I missed an opportunity? An opportunity that truly defines life, not just fills it?
I believe Jesus was again trying to refocus Martha, much like He probably wants to refocus me through this blog. He tells her “I am the life.” Yes, we can fill our lives with so many things, but those are just fillers. Real life, life lived to the fullest, life with real meaning doesn’t come from the responsibilities. It doesn’t come from a clean house. It doesn’t come from a full calendar. It doesn’t even come from days filled with service. Life, the lasting life we all strive for, comes from Jesus. He was again trying to explain that to Martha. And it was important enough that he used one of the powerful “I AM” statements to do it.
So do I have it all figured out? No, but I do know I have got to be more intentional about being still. I have got to prioritize my serving and not become distracted by it. I have got to schedule some white space in my calendar – and in my head. Jesus needs me to be still. He needs me to cut off all the white noise of my life on occasion so that he can really talk to me, just like he really needed to talk to Martha. This is definitely one of those cases where less is more. The less I have in my schedule and in my head, the more I will get out of life and out of my relationship Jesus. I have to learn to just be still!