“God, don’t you care?”
That was Martha’s question as she teetered on the verge of an anxiety attack.
Martha’s question resonates with me. I’ve cried out to God in this way innumerable times. “God, don’t you care that life feels hard right now?” Or that my friend is sick. Or that no matter how much good I think I’m doing, there is always more to be done.
Martha was completely overwhelmed by her to-do list. Her list was self-imposed and long, but with good reason. She was entertaining Jesus! She wanted Jesus and those who traveled with him to feel welcome.
My to-do list is always longer than it should be and, like Martha’s, it’s largely self-imposed.
Sometimes I get so busy it feels like the people around me are sitting still, content to let me do all the work.
When this happens, it’s tempting to lash out at others. That’s what Martha does. She lashes out at her sister Mary who is sitting at the feet of Jesus. Martha doesn’t talk to Mary directly. Instead, she turns to Jesus and says —loud enough for Mary to hear—“Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself?” (Luke 10:39-40).
Jesus responds, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing” (Luke 10:41). Jesus invites Martha to join Mary. He shows Martha that she has the option of setting her to-do list to the side. Instead of working frenetically in the midst of her frustration, she can pause and spend time cultivating a relationship with The One who loves her.
Sometimes when we read about Martha and Mary, we make the mistake of thinking we have to pick one sister over the other. As I read this story again and again, it becomes easier to resist the temptation to pit the sisters against each other. It becomes easier to see that we don’t have to choose to be either a Martha or a Mary; we should be both.
There are times when I need to be in motion, getting things done. There is nothing inherently wrong with a to-do list! To be honest, few churches would exist if it weren’t for a long-genealogy of Martha-types in the church getting stuff done.
My to-do list, however, is meaningless if I haven’t formed it based on what I learn and experience at the feet of Jesus.
There are times when my busy-ness is not healthy, even if it is productive.
In fact, any time my question is “God, don’t you care?” that’s a signal that I haven’t been sitting at the feet of Jesus like I need to. That question is a signal that I’ve allowed myself to disconnect from God’s unending provisions of grace, mercy, and compassion. When that disconnection happens, I default to worry and distraction. As I veer off into unhealthy territory, I need to hear Jesus say, “Beth, Beth, you are worried and distracted by many things. You have need of only one thing. Come, sit, be refreshed.”
When I feel “worried and distracted by many things” and I find myself wondering if God even cares, that’s a moment that requires a full stop.
I close my eyes, breathe in a few deep breaths, and offer a prayer. Sometimes a basic breath prayer is enough to re-center me. As I inhale, I think “God loves me.” As I exhale, I think “I love God.” Other times, my breath prayer blooms into an awareness that a bigger re-orientation is needed.
Martha asks, “God, don’t you care?” Jesus answers, “Yes, I care enough to remind you that you are human and finite and sometimes you need to pause.” To that I say, “Amen.”
What about you? How’s your to-do list looking today? Are your task based on what you have learned at the feet of Jesus? If not, why not? Tell me about it in the comments, in an e-mail, or on Facebook.
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