When is Waiting Not Waiting?

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.

33 thoughts on “When is Waiting Not Waiting?

  1. Unfortunately, Annie, meditative/contemplative prayer is not only unscriptural, but anti-scriptural. Prayer according to the Bible is conscious communication with God, not something that is detached and popular in mystical and New Age circles.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I’m not sure we’re thinking of the same thing, Bob. My prayer times are both talking and listening. (Mostly my talking, I’m afraid.) And, like any good relationship, sometimes I just enjoy knowing His presence. Maybe that’s not technically “prayer,” maybe there’s another word for it – “adoration?” – but I believe there’s a place for “waiting” in the Christian life.
      Thanks for sharing your perspective. I definitely don’t want to get into the area of New Age, emptying-the-mind, non-thinking. Fortunately, I’m too ADHD to keep that up for more than a minute.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you Ann. Good post. I appreciate this.

    The Marthas seem to always get more attention. There is always more focus on being Martha than being Mary, it seems, both by the Marthas and those the Marthas are doing things for. It is because the Marthas are most always in action, being busy, and going about getting practical matters done. Everyone can instantly see their work and accomplishments.

    It is evident that Martha had the gift of Serving (Romans 12). She was being exactly what she was and was true to herself. Serving is obviously a high energy gifting. She was showing her great care and responsibility. She was focused on hospitality of which everyone there was blessed.

    Mary, on the other hand, had a different gifting. It was likely Teaching. New Testament Teachers in training must spend much alone time with the Lord to learn from Him. Mary was doing exactly as her gifting required at that time. Marys must also take care of practical matters in their life, of course, like everyone else, but their main focus is honoring their life’s gifting, being teachable, gaining the required spiritual knowledge for ministry, doing much study and research, and essentially sitting at the Lord’s feet so they can become mature Teachers.

    Those with the gift of Serving often want others to be like them and do what they do because they consider their gift of the highest priority in such situations. Both gifts are absolutely necessary. We need and appreciate both Marthas and Marys. Each of these women was doing exactly as their gift required at that time.

    The point of the story was that Martha stepped out of line in trying to get a Mary to be a Martha. Mary, to her credit, never insisted that Martha become a Mary. It could be that Mary had more insight toward the dynamic of spiritual gifts, especially at that time, and knew that both of them were doing as required. Mary knew she must do what she was doing. She was blessed with a great opportunity! Martha lost sight of the big picture, was less focused on overall ministry and what was happening at that time, and was hyper-focused on her own responsibility.

    Martha was otherwise serving the Lord exactly as she should have been and was doing a great job. Mary was also serving the Lord exactly as she should have been and was doing a great job. As Christians, we must understand that we all have different giftings which must be properly incorporated into overall ministry.

    Thanks again. Blessings to you

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Excellent points, RJ. You confirm Paul’s passages about the Body of Christ, how we’re different parts with different functions, and we can’t belittle anyone for not being like us, or belittle ourselves for not being like others.
      The bottom line is the usual conclusion – keeping our eyes on Jesus!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Excellent post, Annie. You have put your finger squarely on one of my prayer life challenges. That is the challenge of sitting, being still, being silent, and just soaking in the presence of God. When we are busy leading production-driven lives, that is the time when our prayer life should look like something entirely different. Thank you for this prompt and reminder. Blessings!

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  4. I love both Martha and Mary. As for Martha, how many people could be rebuked by Jesus and still serve. Mary is someone to strive toward for me since I am a Martha. I am going to read this post to the ladies who come to my bible study. We are all older women, most of us having to be content to be a Mary due to health. One can sit still but their mind going every which way so I try not to equat it to being still or not being still. I know Godly women who are serving in stressful ministries but when you are with them their quiet spirit calms a room. There is a wealth of truth packed into these two women. Serving is the easy part for a Martha, quietness is easy for a Mary, each had their struggles but each one were in listening distance to Jesus. Martha heard Jesus when He rebuke her so she could possibly hear Him as He talked. I often think about that phrase, there is a time and place for everything. I am so glad Jesus understands the heart and not just actions. Great post.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You ARE wise hearted! Yes, we each struggle in different ways because of our different bents. It’s good to know Jesus can use all of us, even in different ways at different seasons of our lives. Thanks so much for sharing this post. Give my love to your Bible study ladies! πŸ™‚β€οΈ

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  5. Ann, there is a song by Greg Long, back in his solo years prior to joining Avalon, which touched me greatly. It’s called, “In The Waiting”. When you can, look it up and crank the volume. It goes perfectly with your post. God’s grip – Alan

    Liked by 1 person

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