“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.’”
Wow, so this is my first blog post from the Faugl Mission Field! I am shocked, but not surprised, that it has taken me nearly five months to settle in and write out my thoughts. As many of you know, we have been very busy since we entered Thailand in October! That “busyness” is what inspired me to sit down and think about a few things in a new perspective.
Since arriving here in October, I have been on a rollercoaster of change. The metaphor of a rollercoaster has been used to describe so many things that I personally get tired of using it, but darnit if it doesn’t describe my life so well right now. I’m strapped in, I can’t really move my head, maybe my feet are dangling over the abyss, and the train-car-thing is flying forward at a hundred miles an hour. I’m gripping the handle bars with white knuckles and wondering why the ride hasn’t ended yet, and why I allowed myself to buckle-up in the first place. The air is flying by me and my eyes are watering, or am I just crying? First left, then right, then upside down and a corkscrew—ok I really am crying now—who’s behind the controls??
Of course…it’s God. That’s the answer we usually give, isn’t it? God is in control of the crazy coaster of life and we’re just zipping along through exhilarating thrills with shouts of joy, and with tears streaking down our cheeks, until the ride stops, and we walk through the gates of heaven. Maybe you have this image of God with a giant cartoon-lever in his hand, ratcheting your life forward at unbearable speeds and through corners that make it hard to keep your lunch. But is the ride of life designed to shake me around, or have I added my own engineering into the system? (Because, I definitely have a master’s degree in life-engineering!)
((Let’s pause for a moment of theology: This is not a point about God’s sovereignty in my life, or any lack thereof. God is definitely at the control panel, but His word teaches us that we are responsible for our actions. Another blog post for another time, maybe! Alright, back to the story.))
In my current environment, the needs greatly exceed my ability to meet them. My head spins as opportunities circle in a never-ending spiral before landing heavily on my shoulders. I’m in a strange land, with a great purpose, serving the worthiest of souls, with my feet to the fire of real-time ministry. The more I work the more righteous I feel. The more tired, the more justified! This must be what it’s like to die to myself and live for Christ, right? I’m at the buffet of generosity, service and sacrifice and it’s easy to think that a full plate is a holy plate—just look at all these good deeds! I’ve taken a strong grip on the cartoon-lever of the rollercoaster and pushed it forward. Yes! Faster and farther! But why am I stressed? Isn’t this God’s call? Where is my peace, where is my joy? Well, the work won’t get done if I don’t do it—so yes, I push myself just a little more. And in the midst of the rushing wind I heard a voice say, “Martha, Martha….”
If you’re a seasoned Christian, and you hear God call you Martha, then you know exactly what God is going to say next: “Put down what’s good and pick up what’s best.”
I heard the name Martha in my mind and immediately saw a vision of a woman who was so busy sacrificing her time and energy in service that she kicked her ride of life into hyper drive and zipped right by the Good Portion of the ministry buffet.
I opened my Bible and read the story. All at once the ride of a lifetime became so clear. There’s the laundry, there’s the dishes, there’s the devotions and grading tests, and keeping our tight schedule. There’s making sure our seven children are learning all the lessons we are pressed to teach them, on top of the one hundred and eighty other kids here who need support and parenting. I spend my energy correcting, changing, fixing, showing, teaching, fussing and stressing about every little thing that hovers in the air over my shoulders. I had strapped myself into a pattern of behavior that would keep me flying at a hundred miles an hour.
But the checklist is not my ministry.
This concept is very hard to grasp, especially when the work absolutely has to get done. When everything in ministry is worthy of your time, which is the worthiest? On the other side of the coin, how do you decide which noble service gets LESS of your energy? Only the wisdom of God can show you where to walk. You have to know the mind and heart of Christ so well that these tough choices become clear enough to make, even if you only see one step in front of you.
As I sat at my small table with Martha and Mary, it occurred to me that I was sacrificing my relationship with Jesus in order to do his work. In the story, there is a lot of real stuff that needs to get done, and that won’t get done if everyone is sitting at the feet of Jesus. But would Jesus and his friends be upset if a plate of food arrived a little late to the table? Has your family ever suffered harm because the laundry was overdue by a day or so? Is it more important for your kids to be clean and tidy, or to know that you love them even when they are messy? If you’re running around at a hundred miles an hour, you’re going to fly past the tender moments that make life rich and meaningful. And you’re going to miss out on the special things that God can only whisper in your ear as you sip a cup of coffee and watch the sunrise.
Every Christ Follower is in their own Mission Field, and maybe today you’re like me: working so hard for Jesus that you’re neglecting him altogether. Your relationship, your friendship, your partnership and understanding of Jesus is THE most important thing in your life. So work hard! Work hard in your Mission Field, but work harder to know the heart of Jesus Christ. Prioritize that quietness in your soul. Pray and study God’s Word as a true scholar of love. Make sure that the Good Portion is your biggest portion.
This is a lesson I am learning and one that takes constant practice. I hope it brings you peace also. Much love from Thailand!