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
I have been listening to a book by Shauna Niquest called Present Over Perfect, and it has been both encouraging and challenging. The thought of living to be “present over perfect” is exciting, but daunting. My mind never loses sight of tasks, so I have a hard time resting. I know how to rest, but it’s only when my mind knows everything is finished. I am a lover of checklists, and “a prove it with action” kind of gal. This mindset has caused much unnecessary stress in my life and I truly am trying to return to a life that once knew how to be present over perfect.
In Luke chapter 10, Martha welcomes God into her home. From what I’ve read in that passage, Martha and I are alike, so I cannot imagine the pressure she felt! I can imagine she would have given him something to eat or drink. I’m sure she would have done whatever it took to help him feel comfortable and welcomed. I’m sure she would have made sure the house looked presentable, and everyone there would have had all they needed in order for that moment to be perfect. That is what I would have done, at least. Now, I know there is nothing wrong with serving, in and of itself. However, the story doesn’t end with Martha just serving the Lord.
Martha’s sister, Mary, was over at the house, and found herself seated, resting at the Lord’s feet while he taught. This upset Martha, as it would have upset me. Martha got so upset that she complained to God. She complained and asked him to back her up! She basically asked him to get mad at Mary: “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.”
This is what I do with my husband. Sadly, even if he chooses to help accomplish tasks around the house, I get mad when his priority list doesn’t match mine. This is what I’ve done around family, when I naturally become the family lifeguard because no one seems to be watching the backyard full of 25 kids running around and swimming in the pool!
The problem is that I become so distracted by serving that it no longer allows me to feel joy in my service. I know this, only because right before Martha confronts the Lord, the scripture tells us, “But Martha was distracted with much serving.” Then, after Martha complains, God told 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. What was Martha missing out on that she didn’t even realize? Martha was missing the intimacy Mary experienced by leaning in and resting with Jesus. Martha was so caught up in her service, when Jesus really wanted her to enjoy the moment — to enjoy him. Obviously, things need to be done. But what will we miss out on, spiritually and physically, if we get so distracted by accomplishing tasks? What we communicate is that our tasks are more important than whatever else is going on.
We can get so caught up in serving people that we miss opportunities to deepen our relationships with them. Even more devastatingly, we can we can get so caught up in serving Jesus and/or his Church, that we miss moments to lean in, rest with him, and enjoy his company. Jesus paid it all. It is finished. I don’t have to prove myself to him, nor to others around me, because the work has been done! And while there are things that always need to be accomplished, whether at work or home, we need to remember that Jesus loved the portion Mary chose.
Rest in his grace and provision. Stop trying to prove yourself or your gratitude towards him. his abundant life isn’t a checklist life. his abundant life is a life spent with him.
Let us rest in being present.