One thing I ask of the LORD, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple. Psalm 27:4
Do you remember when the people that brought you food at a restaurant were called “waiters” and “waitresses”? I don’t know when I first noticed that they are now called “servers,” but I guess that makes more sense to people, since the word “wait” denotes sitting around, and we certainly don’t want to see that going on with employees at an establishment where we’re dining.
So, where do you suppose the phrase “wait on” came from in the first place, as in “I wait on him hand and foot!” Serving, it would seem, involves everything but waiting.
Long ago there was a certain kind of servant in a noble household, called a “lady in waiting.” These servants were women or young girls whose job it was to serve a lady (possibly even the princess or queen) in any way she needed it, at any moment. For this reason, a lady in waiting might not be busy every moment of every day. She might spend most of her time just “being there” for her lady, ready at a moments’ notice to meet her needs.
I remember a prayer retreat I attended when we lived in St. Louis. I was expecting the speakers to deliver messages regarding how to make a prayer list, setting aside enough time to pray, and checking off each item, as more prayer requests come in and the list gets longer and longer … (I get mentally tired just thinking about it.)
To my surprise, the theme of the weekend was almost the opposite. I was introduced to the concept of “meditative prayer.” (You mean I don’t have to be constantly saying something?) We were coached to focus in on Jesus, to make our spirits rest in His presence, and just realize His holiness, His perfection, and His love for us. For some of us it was a challenge to let go of our to-do lists, our thoughts of what was going on back home, any guilt we felt about not being there taking care of our families, and our own sense of importance – the notion that things would fall apart without us. (*eye roll*) But then if we truly believed God is all-powerful, we should be able to trust that He can take care of our families without our help for a couple of days. (And He can give us discernment to find the balance between trust and laziness.)
One passage of Scripture that illustrated perfectly what I took away from this weekend was the account in Luke 10 of when Jesus went to the house of Lazarus and his sisters, Mary and Martha. A lot of us were able to identify with Martha, who was frantically busy, wanting everything to be perfect for Jesus and His entourage. But Mary, much to Martha’s dismay, was not helping her sister but instead was sitting at Jesus’ feet. When Martha complained to Jesus (the One she was allegedly trying to show hospitality to!) the Lord gently told her she was stressing about so many things, but only a few were necessary – really only one. Mary had chosen that one thing, and contrary to Martha’s implied accusation of laziness, Jesus commended Mary for recognizing what was really important and availing herself of it.
(We were at that retreat to learn to be “Marys.”)
The following is an excerpt from my book “BARRIERS – So, if prayers are so powerful, how come mine don’t get answered?” This passage is in the chapter about the barrier of misdirected attention:
“We aren’t told how Martha responded. I hope she took the hint and sat down with her sister, but whether or not she did, Jesus had made His priorities crystal clear. Serving is good; relationship is better. Besides, neglecting relationship for the sake of serving can bring one dangerously close to the belief (conscious or not) that we are, at least partly, saving ourselves through our dedication to good works. But as I hope has been made clear in Chapter One, we are saved because of what Jesus has done for us, not the other way around. Acts of service are an outgrowth of the love relationship we have with Him.
“Serving. Relationship. We can (and should) have both! But serving begins with relationship. It’s a matter of focus. Martha was focused on doing things for Jesus; Mary was focused on Jesus. All you Marthas out there, consider this: If Jesus’ throat got dry from teaching and He wanted a cup of water, whom would He have asked? It wasn’t Martha. Jesus would have had to (a) find out where she was and (b) flag her down to let her know what He wanted her to do.
“No, I’m guessing He would have asked the one who appeared to be “doing nothing,” who was making herself available to serve Him at any given moment. “
(Excerpted from “BARRIERS – So, if prayers are so powerful, how come mine don’t get answered?” by Ann Aschauer, Chapter 2)
Prayer: Lord Jesus, we are so used to the notion that we have to work for everything we get and that our worth depends on our level of performance! Could it be that You offer us salvation and a relationship with You without cost? Is it true that You are delighted when we simply focus on You and bask in Your presence – when we just love You and allow You to love us? Stop us in our busy tracks today, and help us to let go of everything but You. In Your name, amen.