As Jesus and the disciples continued on their way to Jerusalem, they came to a certain village where a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her home. Her sister, Mary, sat at the Lord’s feet, listening to what He taught. But Martha was distracted by the big dinner she was preparing. She came to Jesus and said, “Lord, doesn’t it seem unfair to you that my sister just sits here while I do all the work? Tell her to come and help me” But the Lord said to her, “My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:38-42
I deeply desire to be like Mary and “be” but I feel guilty if I’m not like Martha and “do”.
As I was working through a bible study about the story of Mary and Martha a thought-provoking question was asked, “If Jesus came to your house would you be willing to set aside everything and sit at His feet?” Of course we all know the right answer to that question: We paste on a self-satisfied, pious smile and reply, “I would stop whatever I was doing and gladly sit at the Savior’s feet!” It seems like a no-brainer. But where it became a bit uncomfortable for me was when I was honest with myself and attempted to apply this “theoretical ideal” to the reality of my own life. Isn’t that where the truth always begins to make us squirm? It’s easy to look at Martha and think, “How in the world could she miss out on the opportunity to sit at Jesus’ feet?” “How dare she whine and complain to Jesus?” And though it wasn’t right, I judged her. What I didn’t realize until I quit judging Martha and looked at my own life was that I am both Mary and Martha.
I have had a really difficult time learning to be content with being Mary. Over the last few years it feels like I haven’t been doing enough. I have felt useless, underachieving, and frustrated with myself. I’m sure it has something to do with the fact that I left a full-time ministry job where I felt useful, fulfilled and valued. Since leaving that job 3+ years ago and recently becoming an empty-nester, I’ve been on a journey that has led me to a place at Jesus’ feet. It’s a very humble place and I haven’t exactly been overjoyed to sit here. I’ve worried about everything from finances to what people think of me for not having a “job.” I’m finally beginning to realize that sitting at Jesus’ feet is my “job” for right now and God wants me to be content in it. He doesn’t want me to be concerned about what other people might think about me for not having a “real job.” I have been judging and condemning myself for not being able to “do” enough for God. I was Martha, calling Mary out for “just sitting there”. I have a dual personality; I am Mary and Martha.
After being in ministry for over 20 years, I needed time to heal physically, emotionally and spiritually. For some people, that can be accomplished while working but for me, I had to be weaned away from the praise of man, the self-satisfaction of being useful, and the pride of a job well done. God has proven Himself once again to be more than faithful: providing for every single one of my needs and even my wants, but I almost wasted this precious time because my life (and my ministry) don’t look like I think they should. He is teaching me so much as I sit at His feet but it has been a painful process. I’ve had to let go of a comfortable, familiar pattern for my life and my misconception of what it looks like to be a Christ follower. I’ve had to let go of my drive to please other people and focus on listening for Jesus’ voice when the clamor of expectations and frantic activity around me threatens to drown out His whisper. I’ve had to examine my motives and ask Jesus to purify them. The process of being purified and reshaped is always painful but it is also profitable. Obviously I’m not “just sitting there” any more than I would accuse Mary of “just sitting there.” I am learning to truly listen and hear what God is saying to me.
This is my season of life right now. It won’t last forever but I don’t want to miss what God has for me just because I’m discontent or un-teachable. I’m getting antsy, ready to jump up and start “doing” what ever God has in store but I realize God’s power in my life is released as I humble myself and wait at the feet of Jesus.
How about you? Is God asking you to quit your swirling and spinning flurry of activity “doing” for Him? Do you sense that He might be inviting you to quietly and humbly sit at His feet? Are you content and committed to be Mary, to willing to sit and learn from Jesus even when the Martha in you is screaming and berating you for not doing more? Are we more concerned about what people think of us than we are of listening and obeying the call to come and sit at Jesus’ feet?
For some of us, God is asking us to stop and just sit at His feet, but for many of us I think He is simply asking us to achieve a little more balance in our “doing” and our “being”. We can’t pour out into the lives of others what hasn’t been poured into us and if we haven’t spent time sitting at Jesus’ feet, when we try to stand in our own strength, we are sure to fall. We are not more valuable to God because of what we do for Him. We are infinitely precious to God because we are His. Do you need to stop and sit for a moment?
I realize that there is much Kingdom work that needs to be done but I believe that the time spent listening and learning at Jesus’ feet will help me to recognize the difference between what’s good and what is God’s best. I have a sense of great expectation and I’m being stretched in my faith: trusting that God does indeed have a plan for me. In order for me to “hear” Him, I am learning to truly “listen” and for me that means spending a great deal of time alone in prayer and in the Word. What about all the stuff I could/should be doing? This comes as a tremendous blow to my pride, but God doesn’t need my flurry of activity to “help” Him do His job. What God delights in is a heart that is seeking to be attuned to His, an obedient heart that joyfully sings the song that He places within.
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” Jeremiah 29:11-13
I’m not exactly sure what God has in store for me, but that’s okay. I know that for today I’m to sit at Jesus’ feet, listening and loving Him with all my heart.