So, what did God have for me? What does He desire for His beloved daughters?
One of the things I love about God is that He is not distant. He sent His Son in flesh and blood to be Immanuel, God with us. Jesus experienced unhealthy standards thrown His way. He had His share of encounters where He helped His followers sort out God’s truth from the cultural expectations of the day.
One of those encounters was at the home of an ultimate perfectionist—Martha. In Luke 10:38-40 we read:
As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”
“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”
Now, I know Martha gets a bad rap sometimes. The truth is Martha probably had a pretty incredible gift of hospitality. Beyond that, Martha was simply acting within the expectations for the time in which she lived by inviting Jesus and His followers into her home to feed them. It’s understandable that she would be running around tending to details and upset with her sister for literally sitting down on the job.
You see, what Mary was doing was scandalous. Women did not simply sit at a Rabbi’s feet to learn. Women had a to-do list to complete when guests came. This fact was not supposed to be questioned. This was not supposed to violated or defied for any reason.
But, I want you to see is that this passage is not really about Martha or Mary. It’s about Jesus. It’s about His response. It’s about His speaking truth and affirmation to good girl Martha.
In Luke 10:40, Jesus says to Martha:
“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things,"
“Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset.” I don’t know about you, but somehow I can hear the gentleness in His voice when He says Martha’s name. Not only that. Jesus saw her. He truly saw her. He understood why she felt like she had to do and do more that day. He understood why she hollered about not having help.
And He gave her the truth about the doing and the being more.
He said this: “Only one thing is needed.” What one thing? Listening. Sitting at His feet. You see, when we stop long enough to sit at His feet, we get to hear the Truth about who we are and what God has for us. When we are able to hear His voice saying our name, we find out that not all of the expectations we put on ourselves are the “better” thing. While some of them may be good, they are not the best.
And God has something unique for each of us. He made you. He knows you. You don’t have to live up to a broad brushstroke of what the world or even the church says about trying harder or measuring up to a standard.
God’s desire for your life has nothing to do with these kinds of burdens. In another passage Jesus tells His followers, “My yoke is easy. My burden is light.” Most days, those words are hard to believe. I know I have set them aside in the past.
Jesus goes on to say to His disciples, “I will not lay anything ill-fitting on you.” How can believe this now? Because He already did. He placed those burdens we place on ourselves onto Himself instead. And all of our striving to be and do more? He placed them up on the cross. He set us free—with His words and with His actions! Not our actions. Not our doing. His.
That is why we can let go of the false things we believe about ourselves and what we think we need to do for Him. We can learn to let go of perfection and all the trying to keep up. We can stop running around trying to please. We can trust Him when He says, “There is the better way. I made it for you.”
The better way includes grace. Freedom. Rhythms, not seeking balance and bullet-point lists at every turn. Eugene Peterson paraphrased Jesus this way in The Message (Matthew 11:28-30):
“Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”
He says these things in a Voice more tender than you can imagine. He looks into your uncertain eyes. He holds you in His arms because of His love. You are His daughter, not a disappointment.
When Kyla came to me that day in tears, I was grateful for the opportunity to assure her that all is not lost on an imperfect low note on a recorder. I was grateful for a moment to look into her eyes and speak truth.
For many years, I didn’t know that such a moment could be part of my own story. There were many times when I was sure that I would never experience freedom from all the standards I had created for myself. But Jesus changed all of it the day I tossed out that book and came to Him in desperation. He gave me a glimpse of the better way and I haven’t been the same since.
I realize it can be hard to put some of these things into the practicality of every day living. What exactly does it look like to listen at Jesus' feet when I'm just trying to survive each day and raise a family? Later this week, I'll post a copy of the follow-up blog I provided for the MOPS group. Update: You can read the follow-up post here.