We’ve been talking a lot about slowing down as a congregation this Lenten season –– actually taking a Sabbath, intentionally pausing to consider Christ over these 40 days.
I, for one, have been made a little anxious by the slowing. That’s because I’m a maximizer when it comes to my time. I like to load up my project list. I have trouble saying “no.” And I have two boys –– aged 4 and 18 months –– and a high-energy, always-going wife.
But I’m not unique. Chances are, you, too, are a maximizer. In a lot of ways, you kind of have to be to keep your head above water in our non-stop society. Gone are the days of Sunday afternoon drives and single-sitting book readings. They’ve been interrupted –– maybe even replaced altogether –– by text messaging, push notifications, the ocean commonly known as Netflix, soccer practices, DIY task lists, on and on.
So many of us are always on fumes. That’s our mode. That’s where people like myself find value.
But if there’s ever a season to buck all of this, it’s Lent. If there’s ever a season to revisit the truth that our value isn’t found in our striving and grit, but in Christ, it’s Lent.
Fortunately, scripture –– which is always sufficient for our instruction and encouragement –– offers us an explicit example of how we ought to manage busyness:
“Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. 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.’” (Luke 10:38-42, ESV)
“Anxious.” “Troubled about many things.” Jesus’s description of Martha in this passage is so striking. It rings so true of our condition.
This Lent is a time to change our identity –– to slow down, shed our Martha skin, and become like Mary. This Lent is a time to trade in our toil for the yoke of Jesus, which is easy (Matthew 11:28-30). It’s a time to cede the portion we scurry to construct and opt for the good portion –– the one that has been freely given to us.
Like Mary, let us sit at the Lord’s feet and listen to his teaching. That, verse 42 says, will never be taken from us, unlike our finite time and energy.
To steal from Scotty Smith’s “A Prayer For A Mary Heart In A Martha World”:
“Lord Jesus, help each of us cultivate a Mary heart in a Martha world. My problem isn’t the world I inhabit, but the heart that inhabits me. I make King David’s prayer mine, ‘Give me an undivided heart that I may live in awe of your name,’ Jesus (Ps. 86:11). Jesus, you are the ‘one thing worth being concerned about’; you are the ‘one thing’ that will never be taken from us. Being with you must always take precedent over doing for you.”
Help us, Lord. Amen.