[Mary] sat at the Lord’s feet, listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. … “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:39-42
Have you ever noticed that some people wear busyness as a badge of honor? I have heard conversations where it seems people are trying to one-up each other on who has the most irons in the fire, whose schedule is the most maxed out, and who has the most commitments and is most needed (important).
I have heard conversations like that where I was a participant.
In my younger, more energetic days I gauged my devotion to the Lord by how many activities “for Him” I could cram into a given week. I was going over my litany of commitments with a friend, explaining my stress and exhaustion in terms of extensive ministry, when he suddenly said, as if coming up with a great new idea, “You know, if you were to spread yourself just a little thinner…”
“Yes?” I asked eagerly.
“… you might reach a point of total ineffectiveness!”
As his sarcasm registered, my pride was deflated like a punctured balloon. Is that what I was doing? I should have stopped then and there and committed to praying about my priorities. Unfortunately, I was too busy to do that. I didn’t put on the brakes until I was forced to, when I became so run down and sick I had to stop, pull out of everything, rest, and recover.
For years that was the pattern for me: get involved in too many things, go beyond the call of duty in each thing (Whom was I trying to impress?), get tired, cranky, frazzled, and anything but the picture of faith, and finally have to cancel out of numerous activities because I was too sick to go on. (This did not help my reputation for being reliable!)
After four consecutive holiday seasons of being too sick by December 25 to enjoy Christmas Day, I committed to doing nothing extracurricular for a season. Saying “no” was a new experience to me, but seeing the shocked looks on people’s faces when I said it was a sight almost worth the sacrifice in itself.
Starting in January, each day after taking the kids to school, I would come home and do the following: Read my Bible for an hour or so, pray for an hour or so, journal for an hour or so, and worship (sing and play my guitar or harp) for another hour, or two, or three… The old me (the Martha) felt like I was “wasting time!” But the newly committed me (the Mary) knew that for now this was right. I had never felt closer to the Lord, and though I didn’t know how long this season would last, I knew that I wasn’t wasting time, and that He was up to something good.
A few months later I found myself on the board of a newly forming Christian school and into one of the busiest seasons of my life. But in that busyness – guided by the Spirit that had held me during my time of retreat – I found reserves of energy and strength that came from knowing I was where I should be.
That ministry was not a permanent one, and it’s been years since I served on that board – years since all three of my children graduated from that school. The Lord has led me into other ministries, and somehow the Christian school has survived and thrived without me. (Imagine that!) But I still need to be wary of volunteering for anything and everything and spreading myself so thin as to reach a point of total ineffectiveness.
Sitting at Jesus’ feet is still the first order of business.