This was fueled by the loss of sweet Mamaw last year, as I have come to realize more and more that her legacy is a life filled with loving well. Mamaw loved Jesus well, and from that love, grew a gracious and selfless love for others. It's perhaps one of the finest traits she passed on to my husband.
Losing Mamaw and reflecting on her life sharply highlighted my own need to focus on love. Because, to be brutally honest, I tend to consider my own needs and wants more than that of others. I tend to ask, "What's in it for me?"
Yes, score one for God's uncanny sense of timing as the last sermon for 2013 was all about loving God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. Illustrated in Luke 10 by the story of Mary and Martha.
Oh, Mary and Martha. The sisters. Yes, it's a story I've heard a million times. I used to have trouble remembering which sister was which until I realized Martha was like Martha Stewart. Ever the busy entertainer, caring for the tiniest of details. I've always related more to her. Like my Granny, who used to set the table for Christmas dinner the day before, ensuring that every place setting was perfectly set. Complete with the place cards she had me make, using my calligraphy skills. These were dinners for family only, mind you. Because in Granny's house, you weren't to be included in Christmas dinner unless you'd officially married in. My husband being the exception (see above note about his incredible love for others).
Martha, Martha, Martha. How I relate to you! Because Mary always taunted me with her laissez faire attitude. I picture her twirling in the meadows picking daisies while Martha is busy taking care of business.
The story in Luke 10 obviously finds Jesus praising Mary's choice. So I once forced myself to attend a Bible study called Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World. Epic fail. I'm afraid I was trying to shove this square peg into a round hole, trying to be Mary. I found myself striving to become very cest la vie in attitude, when frankly, that's not who I am. Like an ill fitting dress, it just didn't work.
Fast forward about twenty years and I'm listening to this sermon about Mary and Martha. Yet, this time, the light bulb came on. I realized that instead of trying to be who I am not, I should instead consider my tendency to task lists and try to rewrite my task list to resemble Mary's. Don't try to be Mary. Simply try to do what Mary did.
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."
There she is. Mary. Sitting at the feet of Jesus. The picture of her posturing herself, humbly, and making the choice to pause her heart to listen was an epiphany for me. I'd been in a long season of asking myself, "What am I doing here?" What was I busy doing in my life? And God kept asking me instead to consider where I was staying.
Where I stay? I should be training myself to stay at the feet of Jesus. How to learn to love God with all my heart, soul, mind and strength? There you have it folks. By learning the sacred practice of sitting at the feet of Jesus. By practicing, all day long, even as I go about my tasks, how to still my mind to sit at his feet. Mentally picturing myself there, humbling myself, to listen more carefully. In between the noisy cacophony of life, training myself to tune in to his voice.
Mary stayed. At the feet of Jesus. She is living out the commands of Hosea 6:3:
Let us know; let us press on to know the Lord;
his going out is sure as the dawn;
he will come to us as the showers,
as the spring rains that water the earth.
She is pressing on to know the Lord. Choosing carefully when to weed out distractions and doing so in order to sit and listen. And it can be hard work. There's always so much to do in a day. Yet, there are always pivotal moments when we can either be distracted and busy or we can choose to still ourselves to listen.
This is the rhythm of Sabbath living. Learning to weed out the unnecessary distractions, be that social media or certain activities or television, so that we have margins to stay at his feet. Learning to choose the good portion. Going to bed earlier so that you can rise to pray and read the Word. Turning off the radio in the car so that you use your drive time to pray.
We can still go about our days, busy as they may be, and learn the sacred practice of sitting at the feet of Jesus. Learning to breathe him in more deeply leads to Sabbath living. It leads to a deeper connection as we make these sacrifices to make it happen. There, in that intimacy, we are loving the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. And it changes us. It overflows to how to love others.
Martha tried to show her love for Jesus by doing. She was distracted by much serving. Sounds like the story of my life. I wonder about you. I wonder what distractions keep you so busy that you never find time to soak in God's teachings, sitting at the feet of Jesus.
Here is what we learn from this passage. Mary had a consumerism faith. She lived her busy "doing" life within the confines of a transactional relationship with Christ. Here, she is all about what she is giving and what she can get in return.
Meanwhile, Mary is learning the unforced rhythms of grace.
Mary chose the good portion. She listened to Jesus. She turned her attention to Jesus. We don't know if this came naturally to her or if it was a great act of discipline to do so. But either way, she made that choice.
Martha was distracted with much serving. She missed out on his teachings because she was busy in the kitchen. Her activity for God led her to make demands of Jesus. Making demands of him is an extension of a consumerism faith that continually asks, "What's in it for me?"
Look, bloggy friends. Both sisters were loved by Jesus. We know that within the context of Scripture. It literally says so within the gospels.
We see this love when Jesus answers Martha's demanding question. He didn't rebuke or scold her. Scripture says he answered her. I see a gentleness here. Jesus is gentle with Martha, no matter her approach to him.
Both sisters were loved servants of Jesus. Jesus chose to visit them multiple times during his earthly ministry. So we know that a consumerism faith is not necessarily a grounds for being rejected by God. No, the bigger question here is this.
How richly did each sister get to experience Jesus, based on their experiences? How free and refreshing were their faith walks? Which sister seemed to live with the knowledge of living more abundantly, choosing more carefully?
It seems to me that this passage shows us an important principle. Abundant living boils down to Sabbath living. Experiencing Jesus as deeply as possible comes from learning the sacred practice of sitting at his feet. Knowing when to let go of tasks for the greater portion of choosing fellowship with him. Posturing ourselves as a student would to their teacher in ancient days -- sitting at his feet, listening. Soaking in every word.
I've always tried to be Mary, jealous of who she naturally seemed to be. I've always thought I must just be doomed to be Martha because I love a task list that I can mark from as I accomplish and perform.
But maybe Mary was a girl who loved task lists, too? And she just disciplined herself to make the priority on her task list become sitting at his feet.
I challenge you to consider. Which sister are you? How do you live out your relationship with Jesus? Are you in the kitchen? Doing? Thinking you've earned brownie points and God owes you a favor because of all that you do? Or are you sitting at the feet of Jesus? Choosing to posture yourself to listen?
I'm not talking about all of us changing our schedules so that we have hours upon hours a day to sit and read Scripture and pray. That's not realistic.
What I am talking about is making the focus of our attention and our thoughts and our mindset become a humble position of listening to Jesus.
Would you rather live out your days with a demanding, doing, consumer faith? Thinking constantly about what you can give to and get from God?
I've been trying that route for 39 years. It doesn't mean I'm not a follower of Jesus. But, my consumerism faith has been interrupted by a God who says I'm missing a love and grace that will blow my mind because I've been too busy doing.
I am becoming ever more hungry for a faith based on the unforced rhythms of grace. I'm desperate to learn to live freely and lightly. To truly accept Jesus as my Sabbath. And to learn to cease and desist and revel in His love.
Even within the confines of a busy, crazy, chaotic world.
I'm learning to pose the question to myself repeatedly throughout the day.
Where I stay? Do I trust Jesus to handle the kitchen duty so that I can sit at His feet?
Oh, that I may learn this sacred practice well. That I may choose the good portion that will never be taken away.
Blog post #6 in a series on Sabbath Living: the Sacred Practice of Sitting at the Feet of Jesus.