Mary at the Feet of Jesus

One day Jesus was invited to the house of a woman named Martha, along with a number of his disciples. The disciples sat on the floor in the main room, and Jesus began his instruction. Martha and her sister were not rich. They could not pass on the duties of preparation to the servants— servants they did not have. So Martha and Mary began to prepare the meal for their very special guests. It was a great honor, but also a great amount of work.

Mary, however, had heard second-hand some of the strange and exciting stories and teachings of Jesus. Thus, she would strain her ear to hear what Jesus and His disciples were saying inside the house. She would find reasons to linger by the door to listen. Jesus began to tell a story, and Mary did not want to walk away in the middle and not know the ending, or what the story means. She stood in the doorway for the entire story. But as the story ended the discussion began and she did not want to leave. She knew, however, that there was work to do. Regretfully, she began to back out to continue preparation; but Jesus looked at her and with a subtle motion of His hand beckoned her to sit down.

She was nervous to do so, but she did want to listen if she could, and it certainly seemed right to do as their special guest requested. So she moved toward the corner of the room farthest from Jesus and prepared to sit down. Jesus responded, “No Mary. I want you to join the group, not hide in the back.” He motioned His disciples to make room in the circle, and Mary, feeling out of place, sat down in the circle. This was foreign to her— other rabbis would not have allowed her to join in such a way. It was exciting to hear the words of Jesus directly and listen to the discussion and explanations and questions. She started to have questions of her own but was unsure if it was appropriate to speak up.

Before she had resolved this in her mind, her sister peaked into the room and attempted to wave her to come out. Martha gave her an exasperated look and tried to mouth silently to her to leave the guests alone.

Jesus looked up at Martha and said, “Oh, don’t be worried Martha. I invited her to join our little group. I hope you don’t mind.”

Martha responded, “I apologize to disturb you Lord. But don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Could you tell her to help me?”

Jesus then said, “Martha, Martha. You are worried and upset about many things. If we eat now, or two hours from now doesn’t matter. If you truly need help, we all can help prepare the meal. None of that is vital. I am here not to eat or to sleep, but to teach and proclaim. That is what is most important and Mary has chosen the more important thing. I will not send her away, and I ask you not to pull her away either. In fact, if you want to join us, there is room in the circle for you as well.”

Martha, the Second Self, and Wintergreen Moments

A couple of days ago our center here (Bukal Life Care) showed a video. It is “Healing the Shame that Binds You” a lecture by John Bradshaw done back in the mid-80s. Although I had seen it several times before, this time one thing struck me particularly.Image result for PEACEFUL MOMENT WINTERGREEN

Bradshaw spoke of people who can’t really enjoy or live in the moment. They enjoy looking at photographs of vacations or big moments. However, when the photos were being taken, they weren’t really having a nice time. At the time, they were either worrying about everything happening, or focusing on what is to happen next. He described these people as ones who live as if they are in a car that is moving through life but they are seated backwards… appreciating what has already passed by. He said that these people often feel like they are living with a second self. One person is a body acting and interacting while the second, conscious, self is watching cautiously what is happening.

I find that in myself… both in ministerial activities and in life in general. When asked what was the happiest day of my life, I had trouble coming up with a good answer (I still do). It wasn’t when I got married… I was too focused on making sure that everything came together for the ceremony and the reception. It wasn’t the births of my three children… I had too much to worry about. It wasn’t when I received my doctorate, I had to think about what happens next. I do feel then as if in the big moments I am watching myself experience events rather than experiencing them first hand.

Ministry and Missions can be like that at well. When our team would organize projects I would like to say “I worry so you don’t have to.” I know the Bible says not to worry… but I think the focus is on the problem of “not trusting” rather than dealing with concerns and contingencies. Still, there is something that does truly suck the joy out of life when each moment is lost in details and analysis…  living as a disconnected second self.

Recalling the story of Mary and Martha, I have often had problems with Jesus gently scolding Martha and suggesting that Mary had chosen the better thing. Martha was doing what needed to be done while Mary— frankly— wasn’t. But maybe, just maybe, the issue wasn’t about work, and maybe it wasn’t about worship or adoration.

Maybe it was about… THE MOMENT.  Mary was there living and enjoyment the moment. Martha was distracted and fussing around. She could not appreciate the moment.

The problem is what to do with such knowledge. Should everyone simply goof off… not do anything and live in the moment. I don’t know. Things still need to get done. One does have to think about what can go wrong. One does still need to plan. But missions/ministry should never get to the point where one cannot feel the satisfaction of service to and communion with God.

I used to organize medical missions. I would worry and worry and worry about details. The volunteers, the money, the medicines, the packing, the transportation, the partners, the venue, the weather, the patients. It really sucked the joy out of serving. And as the day would start there would be chaos, crowds, and concerns. I would run around worried about everything. But maybe an hour or an hour and a half into the mission, usually, things would settle down. The mission would be moving forward like a well-oiled machine. I would stop… look around… find a place to sit and lean back… and enjoy the moment. I would feel what I call my “Wintergreen Moments.” A Wintergreen Moment is when I feel a satisfied peaceful coolness wash over me. I relax, and live in the moment. A perfect stillness. I would take it in for a few moments… and then scurry off to make balloon animals for the kids.

I am not sure that I will ever get to the point that I can embrace being rather than ministering in a disconnected worry and scurrying manner. But I find that grabbing a few tenuous moments… “Mary” Moments… Wintergreen Moments… helps me avoid the burnouts and frustrations that hit so many in ministry.