Our lives are constantly busy. Whatever our roles, age or commitments, we live in a noisy, activity-filled world. This may have looked very different this past year with the pandemic, but it still is true. I think one of the hardest things to do is to be still for a period of time.
There is always something to do around the house - the laundry basket is never empty, dishes keep appearing magically in the sink every couple of hours, and if you are a mom with young children, you're always needed, especially when you just begin to sit down for a period of quiet. For those who are working outside of the home, there are work commitments to add to this list. And then, in our world full of distractions, we can look for rest, for 'de-stressing' through social media, watching a show, mindless browsing, or many other options. There is always something to fill our time.
Yet, as I've been reading about, and thinking of what it means to seek the Lord, to listen to His voice, to depend on Him or to wait on Him, I wonder whether we actively set aside time for the most important relationship of our lives. As I've longed for increased intimacy and desire to love the Lord and be abandoned to Him, I wonder if I actually desire this enough to be intentional about acting on it. Or do I say, "Look, Lord, I have all these things to get done. So I have five minutes for you today. I really want to obey you. Would You say what You have to say to me right now so I can go and get busy doing what You want me to do?"
Do we really have no time or do we need to declutter our lives and minds, to set apart time and cultivate a desire to sit at His feet? Sometimes, our excuse is our busyness for important things - things that need to be done and taken care of - like family matters, and sometimes we're simply too busy with 'serving the Lord'.
We see one such instance in the gospels, a story of two sisters. In Luke 10:38-42, we see Martha welcomed Jesus into her house when He comes to their village. Wow! What a privilege to have this great Rabbi in her own house, who was teaching about the Kingdom of God and performing these great miracles. His disciples generally followed Him everywhere and crowds gathered wherever He was teaching. There was so much work to be done!
Food and snacks to be taken care of. Cleaning and washing to be done. The house had to look perfect! This wasn't simply any guest. It was their most important guest. For Martha, it was so important to serve Jesus and be busy with all the work. That was the expectation of the culture and what she considered the most important thing to do.
And then we see Mary, Martha's sister. She had left all there was to do and sat down at the feet of Jesus, to hear His word. She must have been so captivated by the presence of Jesus and His teaching, that she sat there at His feet, unaware of the pressures of hosting this crowd. There would have been people who would have been nudging her to go help her sister, for that is the proper thing for the ladies in the house to do.
How could she be so lazy and irresponsible so as to avoid her duty? Was it proper for a woman to be sitting at the feet of the Lord? Or maybe, she was aware of all that was happening around her and the judgmental comments and looks at her but she was unwilling to give up this precious opportunity to be sitting and listening at the feet of Jesus. She wanted nothing more and this was her heart's desire!
It reminds me of Psalm 84:1,2, 10
How lovely is Your dwelling place, Lord Almighty!
My soul yearns and even faints, for the courts of the Lord;
my heart and my flesh cry out for the Living God.
Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere;
I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than to dwell in the tents of the wicked.
Mary's desire was to be there, at the feet of Jesus, in that moment.
Martha however, was distracted, bogged down, with much serving and all her preparations. Martha continues, and we can all well empathize with her, as she complains to the Lord, "Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me here to serve alone? Therefore, tell her to help me!" Jesus answered and said to her, " Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her." (Luke 10:40-42)
I can so easily relate to this. I can be so easily distracted with much serving in many different instances and miss out on the life and intimacy that comes from sitting at the feet of Jesus. But even as I've been seeking intimacy and a deeper desire for the Lord, this story is so apt for me. In the past, I have often chosen busyness and serving while neglecting the more important part of deeply desiring to listen to Him.
Mary chose the one thing that was needed. Her choice was good in the sight of the Lord. He was not going to take it away from her, no matter what society said or expected from her, for her choice pleased Him. This choice, to be sitting at Jesus' feet, intently listening to Him, was probably mocked or judged by most people there, but to the One who mattered the most, He honoured and applauded her choice.
Mary lived that moment, and hopefully the rest of her life, for the audience of One, We see another act of devotion, in John 12:1-7 where Mary anoints Jesus' feet with very costly oil, again with criticism from some people. Her devotion and love were not dictated by people or expectations, but from a heart that deeply loved the Lord.
This brings me, and a lot of us, to a very important question. What does the Lord say when He looks at the choices we make? Martha's choice wasn't a bad choice. Maybe a lot of our life is filled with what is 'good' but does it take us away from sitting at His feet and listening when He is speaking to us?
When we finally sit with His word or in prayer, are our minds still filled with all the distractions of the many things that still need to be done or the worries that we are carrying around? How can we expect to be captivated by Him and to listen to Him, if we just won't be quiet! Mary shut her ears to the noise around her and tuned her ears to the voice of her Master. What can we do in our lives to reduce the noise and declutter our minds, to free up our time, so we can tune our hearts and ears to HIM?
For me personally, it has meant having to re-think how I spend my free time and what I do to 'rest'. It has also meant controlling my use of technology and inculcating some disciplines in life. It has also meant what I set my mind on when I'm doing things around the house - like washing the dishes or drying clothes. Mundane activities can be times with Him as our hands mechanically do what needs to be done while our hearts and minds are engaged with Him.
It has also meant asking Him to deepen my desire for Him and cleanse my heart from what I've been cluttering it with. I've realized how much I need Him even to grow in my love for Him.
And the bigger question for me remains - does our devotion and response to Him flow out of deep love for Him irrespective of circumstances or is it dependent on what people say or expect from us? It is my desire, as I learn to sit at His feet, and gaze lovingly at His Word, that I will live for Him alone, even if my actions or choices are criticized by all around.