Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, "Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me." But the Lord answered her, "Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her." Luke 10:38-42
Most people are super familiar with this passage of scripture, even to the point of writing it off. I can't say I didn't try. The Lord kept on and kept on putting it on my heart over Christmas break.
The two weeks leading up to Christmas were completely nuts. I was running around like a headless chicken most days: cooking, baking, making goodies, making gifts, wrapping gifts, hosting get-togethers, Advent activities with the kids...and truth be told, I was resenting all of it. Because of my bad planning and failure to say "no", not knowing my boundaries, I was getting all stressed out and Martha-like.
I prayed that God would slow me down. I knew that I was being Martha and far from being Mary, but I couldn't stop, there was too much to be done. Do you know that God answered my prayer? Not in the way I expected or wanted Him to, but nonetheless, He answered. He answered by completely slowing me down...to a stand still. First with a virus that swept through our family, taking me out first. Head in the toilet, yes, I'm listening, God?
And then He slowed us down with a difficult trial in our family. A time of grieving and restoration took place when following the two crazy weeks, we had two completely empty weeks to see God's activity, whereas before we had pushed Him aside. He allowed me to see Him in the little moments throughout the day - the song with the perfect words that ministered to me, the cuddly sick child who never cuddles otherwise, the random run-ins in the grocery store, the unexpected opportunities to minister. I began to notice and see His activity and realize that He was there all along, but the noise had been too loud to hear His soft whispers.
I can relate well with Martha, as I trust you can too. I have yet to meet someone who has told me that they struggle with trying to be more like Martha, they are really a Mary at heart. I know they are out there, but I haven't met one. So I found myself asking, "How do I choose the good portion when there is so much to be done?" The Lord gently showed me that I was asking the wrong question. Martha was not doing a bad thing with her gifts of hospitality and cooking skills. The Lord had really gifted her in that! Jesus was addressing her heart when he gently rebuked her. He was not saying that what she was doing was sinful or even that it didn't need to be done, but that her heart in doing those things was sinful.
Jesus always went around addressing people's hearts even when they weren't getting it. People practically had their to-do lists out, wanting Jesus to add action items to it and Jesus just kept on telling people to trust and to believe and asking them to do things that He knew would address the idol in their hearts (see Mark 10:17-27 and John 6:28-40, to name a few). But when he rebuked Martha with all gentleness, she responded with much teachability.
Here's a teachability test for you: how would you feel if you woke up 30 years from now with the same habits, attitudes and sins that you have now? How about evaluating how your life is different from 10 years ago? Has there been change? (let's hope!) But is that change based on the Gospel and its transforming power? When we belong to Jesus, staying where we are at is not an option. He wouldn't allow Martha to stay put in her sin, He wouldn't allow me to and He won't allow you to if you belong to Him.
He came, lived a perfect life and died on the cross as the perfect payment for our sins not just so that we could have a ticket to heaven, but so that we could be made NEW! There is so much more to the Christian life than sitting in a pew every Sunday. There is so much more than the trip to the altar that you took when you were five years old. There is abundant life (John 10:10)! And it transforms! He can do this if we are teachable and respond to his rebukes and leading. In what ways are you pushing Him aside or failing to respond to His leading? Martha thought she had value because she was productive; she truly had value because she belonged to Jesus. Where do you seek value? Is it in all the "doing" like Martha? Be teachable and allow the Lord to show you that those things don't earn you anything. I am certainly learning and re-learning that.
Ephesians 2:10 says this:
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
Good works are a GOOD thing! We see that here as we understand that God prepared them for us and we were created for them, so what's the rub? Is it the "good portion" (the worship) or the service and good works, like it says here?
I definitely see balance in the Scriptures, and I see that without negating either worship or good works, we can find balance that Jesus offers as our foundation. On one side of the spectrum you have a completely overbooked schedule with good works and service filling it up and eventually you will see spiritual dryness (check! been there!) and on the other side of the spectrum you may see isolation and failure to engage community, failure to have accountability and meaningful relationships - people who care about you and will speak truth into your life. This is a must! If you don't have this, I will gladly help you find it.
Balance is possible, even if you are in a stage of life like me, with littles running around everywhere, needing your help with every little thing. I understand that every minute is occupied while they are awake. Plan better and try to do service opportunities with your kids. We have taken our children with us to nursing homes, canned food drives, hospitals for visitation, and delivering food to someone who is struggling. If you wait until your kids are in bed or your kids are older, you are putting off an opportunity to serve the Lord in this way and teach your children how to serve. If asked to serve and you can't do it joyfully, know your boundaries and decline. Don't fear people more than you fear God and certainly don't agree to make a meal for someone out of guilt when your schedule is already overloaded and you know you need to spend that night with your family or in the Word.
Remember what Jesus said about Mary? He said that she had chosen the "good portion" and that "it would not be taken away from her." It wouldn't be taken away from her then, so that she could go help Martha and it won't be taken away from her for all eternity. I have been asking myself the hard questions: is what I am choosing going to be taken away or am I choosing the "good portion" like Mary, the portion that is eternal? What about you?