Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Exhausted of Being a Martha

It took an article from an online magazine to bring the point home. I was really tired and stressed. And ninety percent of it was self-induced! Being a new wife and mother, a missions mobilizer in church, a member of two Bible study groups, a full-time office worker, a freelance writer, and an on-call youth resource speaker were much too much for my two hands to handle. But even with these many hats already on my head, I was still intent on adding more caps and berets until I became a leaning tower of responsibilities. One more addition, and I am ready to fall from sheer exhaustion.

This being missions month at our church, I barely held my head up the water so that activities and appointments would not drown me. If I had my way, I wouldn’t stop until I drop. So, in His grace, God intervened this week and forced me to slow down. It had to take my six-month old baby boy’s fever, the effect of his latest vaccination, to keep me home over the weekend. At first I was anxious at the thought of not being in church to coordinate the Volunteers for Missions lunch fellowship. I constantly thought of the missions class facilitators meeting I missed. And I kept wondering who would arrange the display tables of the missions booths? But then I realized that the world would keep spinning even if I stayed home. The worship service would still go on without me. The missions class and fellowship would still bless people even if someone else coordinated them. And most of all, God was still very much in control even if I took time off to rest and be with my son.

I realized, too, how little time I had spent with my husband lately. For two weeks Mang had been asking me, “Bun, can I take you out on a date? Can you check your calendar and see when I could have dinner with you?” I laughed and didn’t take him seriously at that time. I simply told him that I’ll cook dinner for him at home, that way we could save on time, gas, and money. I reasoned that we had two evening Bible study groups scheduled to meet that week and I had several after-office meetings for my high school reunion and my book project. Indirectly, I was telling my husband that I had no time for him.

Once again, God intervened. One of the key people I was to see that week contracted conjunctivitis. The meeting was cancelled. Then, we received a letter from our travel agent telling us of a crisis concerning Mang’s temporary residence visa in the Philippines. Being a foreigner, Mang had to address the problem immediately. But being missionaries, we had to look up to God for His guidance and provisions. In an unplanned and unexpected way, Mang, I and our baby, Lian Ed, took an evening off and leisurely drove around the nearby university’s grounds to unwind. We parked near the athletic oval lined with huge acacia trees, carpeted by freshly cut grass, and roofed by the starry sky. There, we sang some hymns and talked to God and to each other as Lian Ed gulped milk from his feeding bottle.

But most of all, I realized that I failed to choose the most important thing in this life—to enjoy God. My hurried pace, long to-do-list, and tight schedule cost me the precious time to sit at Jesus’ feet, to listen to Him through my Bible reading, and to talk to Him through prayer. Everyday, the same thing happens—I get out of bed, skip breakfast, get dressed, kiss my boys goodbye and rush to the office. And though the office staff starts each day with devotions and prayer, I feel a strong tug in my heart to go into a secret place and spend time alone with the Father. Often, the day simply ends with guilt but the cycle repeats the next day.

I noticed that my lack of fellowship with God led to a clouded perspective on life. I complained more and thanked God less. I worried more and sang less. I criticized people more and appreciated them less. I argued with my husband more and prayed with him less. I got impatient with my son more and enjoyed him less. I frowned more and smiled less.

Somehow, I think, I understand why Jesus told Martha that her sister Mary had chosen the best thing by simply sitting at the feet of Jesus. Martha busied herself and expected her to lend a hand. Martha resented Mary’s inactivity and told Jesus to reprimand her sister for not helping. It was surprising how Jesus responded, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things. Only one thing is important. Mary has chosen the better thing, and it will never be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:41-42, NCV)

Martha and Mary’s story taught me that I can choose how to live my life. There are more important things to which I should devote my time and energy. Often, I get drained by the less essential issues and when the more important concerns come, I have no more strength to address them. There will always be needs pressing me on all sides but I should discern which of those are what God wants me to prioritize. He will not require me to do beyond what He has enabled me to do. There would be times when I simply have to say “no” to what may be urgent in order to say “yes” to what really matters. I need not be an anxious, stressed and exhausted Martha if only I can be a Mary who will deliberately sit at Jesus’ feet and learn from Him who invites, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest…you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:28 & 29c, NASB).

I’m glad that God orders my stops in unexpected ways. If he didn’t, I would have just kept going and harmed myself in the process. I’m thankful that God’s ways are not my ways and that His plans are always for my good. Just like any loving father would, God is quick to step in and pull me back when I’ve reached my limit and hold me in His arms until I find rest. (written in October 2004)

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