More Missional Musings

06Nov

Nov. 6, 2018

A staycation. What a concept.

And one I haven’t been very good at doing. It seems like if I don’t go somewhere else for my time off, I end up working from home. Can you relate? For years I’ve told myself it’s because it’s ministry, it’s because I care, it’s because it’s important to me, and while all of these things are true, I think it comes from a few deeper rooted issues: I don’t know how to relax well and I hold my sense of self-worth into what I do.

Ouch.

Granted, I’m getting better at the whole relaxation thing. I find if I’m painting, Bible journaling, or spending time with friends or my furries that I can unplug and detach for a time. That works for me.

Lately though, I’ve been reflecting on how much of my sense of who I am is tied into what I accomplish; that is, how much I get done during my day or how productive I feel. I’m a Martha through and through.

We find in Luke 10:38-42, “Now as they went on their way, he entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he was saying. But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to him and asked, ‘Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me.’ But the Lord answered her, ‘Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.’” (NRSV)

Maybe you’re familiar with the scripture… maybe you even identify with Martha or Mary. As I said, I find myself in the Martha group: busy doing and I can find myself worried and distracted by many things (as scripture puts it – love that), but I try to delve into Mary’s realm at least once in a while; not being distracted by so many things but simply listening to Jesus.

We have such a great example from the book of Luke. Jesus goes to visit his friends Martha and Mary in Bethany and Martha is busy with the preparations. Even after he arrives, she’s still being hospitable, making sure there’s enough food and taking care of everything. These are all good things, right? I mean, I hope they’re good because that’s what I would be doing.

Even Jesus indicates they’re good, because when Martha complains that her sister is being lazy (really, that’s what she’s whining about, isn’t it?), Jesus tells her that Mary has chosen the BETTER thing to do… he’s not scolding Martha for being hospitable and paying attention to details (good for us Marthas) but he’s saying that what you’re doing is okay but what Mary is doing is so much better. Because, Jesus is saying, she’s spending time with me.

If we put it into today’s world and get a little creative, I can imagine Martha as a busy bee. She’s probably cleaned the kitchen, the living room and the dining room from head to toe. She’s scoured the toilet, she’s dusted, and probably even wiped down the blades of the ceiling fans. She’s set out the best dishes and she’s put out new towels. Maybe she’s got her iPhone or iPad on the counter, with the very best recipes. Then Jesus arrives and her sister Mary isn’t helping her at all. While Martha is putting out the red carpet for their guest and making sure it’s all running seamlessly, Mary isn’t doing anything.

Instead, she’s sitting in there, drinking coffee and talking it up with Jesus.

Here’s Martha, who has been hard at work and is busy fixing dinner, and she’s distracted by so many things. Maybe she’s getting text messages from friends, checking her Facebook, posting photos on Instagram of her guest or her culinary creations. She’s doing all of these things and completely missing out on spending time with Jesus. She’s distracted. Big time.

I can relate to her. I’m so like Mary. Oh, how frustrating it would be to have a sister who’s there and not have ANY help – getting stuck doing EVERYTHING.

I mean, don’t tell Mary, but I can kind of see Martha’s point. Can’t you?

I would imagine we’ve all been there: busy doing something and someone else isn’t really contributing, even if you don’t easily identify with Martha. I completely get it and can really hear Martha’s frustration when she tells Jesus TELL HER TO HELP ME! She’s had it and it shows.

Jesus responds in such a loving way to Martha, who is exasperated and has pretty much just chided her houseguest, complaining to him about the situation. Scripture reads, “But the Lord answered her, ‘Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.’”

I find so much hope in these words.

Jesus is saying to her that you’re busy and distracted, but your sister is doing what’s better because she’s spending time with me. She’s present in the moment – not thinking about what needs to be done next or what she forgot to do. She’s here, with me.

I’m the type of person who loves to-do lists. I’m even the type that if I do something that’s not on my list, I’ll write it down to check it off. (True story!) And it usually is good stuff, ministry-related. Yet I’ve also learned that I oftentimes tie my worth into my accomplishments. I don’t mean achievements (like awards and accolades), but the amount of stuff I get done. I think it’s good to be driven and set goals and meet them, but it can be dangerous when we tie our sense of self into what we do or don’t get done. One could argue that it’s almost as if we are working for God’s approval or love. Maybe that’s what Martha was experiencing.

Friends, that leaves out grace. Grace, that unmerited, unearned, even undeserved love and gift from God. Jesus was spending time with Mary and she wasn’t doing anything to earn it. Yes, our works are important, but they should be a result of our faith (kind of like two sides of the same coin), not a way to earn our relationship with God.

The things we do, serving God and serving others, are important. But in the midst of those things, we can’t lose sight of God and forget to spend time with Jesus. While they’re good things we can be doing – the better thing is growing our relationship with Jesus, and we can’t do that well if you aren’t spending time sitting at his feet. Relationships only grow when time is spent together.

And we need time to unplug and unwind. Back to my staycation that was actually successful this time. I define success in that one whole day out of four, I didn’t even think about checking email on my phone. I mean, that’s big for me. It probably helped that I had friends in from Ohio. Yet, I think it was something a little more. I’ve been focusing a lot on this “Martha condition” I have.

Our theme for missions 2019 is “Be” and can you guess what scripture it’s from? Yep. Luke 10:38-42. For summer missions especially, we’re going to focus on how we can be in service, be in community, be real (authentic), and how we can continue to become who God calls us to be. How we can lean more fully into being the body of Christ, the hands, feet and smile of Jesus to the world in which we live.

One day out of four without checking email is a step in the right direction for me to be present and be fully engaged in the work God calls me, and in those times of rest and renewal. Whether you find yourself as a Mary or a Martha, what’s that “better thing” that you can focus on so that you can “be” more engaged and effective?

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