41 And Jesus answered and said unto her, “Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things:
42 But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.”
Luke 10:41-42 (KJV)
I’m a Martha, but I’ve slowly been turning into a Mary because I’m exhausted. There’s no awesome reason other than becoming insanely aware of my stress level and limitations. Anyone that’s known me any length of time could tell you I’m the worrier, the planner, the thinker, a group’s voice of reason. I’ve been careful and troubled about many things. But once you’ve had an experience that rocks you to your core, and you’re willing to review it and learn from it, I don’t see how you can ever be the same.
Mary was sitting at the feet of Jesus, a place I truly long to be. With parties to plan and people to please, she had only one place on her mind. She could see how important He was above everything else; He had all she would ever need and He was better than all the other good things she was seeking. Jesus said that one thing is needful. In the end, one thing remains. I don’t like to think how close we’ve come to the end, but I know I’ve seen the shadows of death, I’ve heard our cries of desperation and I’ve felt the hopelessness of pain. We could’ve started over with anything and I know it would’ve been easier to give up entirely, but we chose to only rebuild the best.
Dad says that once you experience the extremes of life and death, some things just don’t matter any more. He had to decide what he would continue doing, even if it could kill him. Daily distractions arise, but the heart of the matter doesn’t change. There is something inside us, calling for us to stay true to what matters most. Pawpaw would say that I gotta keep the main thing the main thing. This list is short, but it still feels complete. Over a hundred years from now, these will still be the most important things we refuse to live without.
Not church. Not religious responsibilities. Our new definition of Christianity would know fewer bounds, but our purpose would be more resolute. Some would say stubborn, but I disagree – stubbornness and resolve are not the same thing. We are so sure about a few things. Serving Jesus, becoming more like Jesus, making Jesus known, seeking His face, establishing His kingdom… that’s what our worship will be. When the world fought to make us find something more “normal,” we fasted and prayed until Jesus showed us a new and exciting way. Our ministry now is touching hundreds of lives each year, overcoming all types of denominational divisions, providing for the forgotten, caring for the widows and the orphans and seeing people experience Christ in new ways. It doesn’t look like any other church in our area, and we are ok with that. Recently, we were able to define our new direction as this: Lead, show others how to live and love like Jesus. That’s been the goal of our ministry all along; a sentence that started being written in 1980 didn’t really make a whole lot of sense until now. We wouldn’t be here without every single piece of our puzzle, so we are more able to rejoice in every part of the journey now that we see such purpose. Nothing like some really big shoes to fill.
But I believe in resemblance. I want my life to resemble Christ’s. In order to do that, I must know Him intimately. I must follow Him closely and I must change my patterns and behaviors to be more like Him. His strength and His Spirit have residence in my soul, so this really is not a difficult step. He has saved me so many times and He has loved me in my most unlovable state. He deserves my total adoration, my complete attention, my humble appreciation. It matters that I see Him this way. He is the Author of my story, the Finisher of my faith. Although my ministry surprises some people, the fact that He led me here doesn’t surprise me at all. When I am picking my priorities, He and His work and His calling are no doubt at the top of my list.
My family is the greatest God-given blessing in my life. After life and death, marriage and babies, I would say that my immediate family currently consists of 15 people. I’m an only child, but I’m crazy close to my aunts, uncles, and cousins. On any given day, you could find four generations of us around a supper table. We all live within 13 miles of each other and still actually like to see each other. Even though we go about our daily lives in individual ways, we know that a tight-knit family unit is one of our strongest qualities. My family gives me a safe place to fall. Somewhat like the church, just like a body, we are all small parts of a whole. Each has a role to play; each has a talent or perspective unique from the rest. Everyone knows that we are better together. We are happy to serve each other, knowing that sometimes quality time means moving into new houses, sorting clothes for our ministry, trying a new restaurant or driving to a doctor’s office. I rely on them and they rely on me. There’s a lot of patience required to live this known by 14 other people, but there’s also no fear because the people that know you best love you anyway. I spent a lifetime taking these relationships for granted, but it’s impossible to overlook this blessing when you really think about what matters most.
This seems like a petty inclusion, especially when all of my other priorities are much more weighty. However, anyone that knows me or my family can hear how important music is to us. 80% of us play instruments and we have spent a lot of time playing music together (sometimes we even all play the same song, at the same time, in the same key and tempo). We only sing in church because my great-grandfather, long before I was born, made that decision. All of our musical talents go towards redeeming music for the cause of Christ. We’re country to the core and we can’t really help that. But from the songs we write to the old hymns others can sing along to, there’s no denying that music almost courses through our veins.
When Dad was recovering, nothing was going to be right until he could sing and play again. A piece of him was missing. Without being able to get up each morning and play a piano or guitar for Jesus, he was just not himself. The tracheotomy they used to save his vocal chords from a breathing tube had still done some damage to his throat. He could no longer sing in the same key he used to. His muscle memory had been affected, so it took way more effort to play his instruments than it did only 6 weeks before. And that’s just all the technicalities. What about all the emotional changes we had gone through? We were all much more raw; yes, it was authentic too, but sometimes it was just sad. We wanted to sing and say things unlike anything we used to do. Our wilderness experience had changed us all and our music would be forever affected too.
People might be surprised to know that this is what matters most to me because my days are actually packed with plenty of things not on this list. 12 years after I made a lot of choices, I don’t even recognize the life I set out to build. I have my faith and my family and they are better than I could’ve ever dreamed; but they aren’t near the priority I envisioned them to be. Jobs, friends, hobbies, and entertainment have proven more distracting than some might think. Don’t let my facade fool you, sometimes days go by without me ever turning my full attention to prayer or the Word. Writing causes me to focus on Jesus for a little while, but even this journey is just an item on my daily to-do list. It’s taken almost 3 years for me to compile 40 days worth of stories. I don’t want to minimize that journey, because I believe the timing for my completion of this project is perfect. The last few days here actually coincide beautifully with a lot of healing that’s been done in my heart this year.
You see, my calendar is full every day because I thought that’s what God wanted. I’m trying to be a faithful laborer, ready for harvest, willing to scream, “Here am I. Send me!” I want to be found waiting and watching, not waiting and wanting. The Bible is full of examples where work was part of the journey, but now I see that the work – the labor, the toil, the pain – may be required from life, but it’s always the quiet, the easy and the simple that find Jesus. In the fight against worthlessness, I just add more to my plate in order to prove my necessity and overcome my insecurities. I have good reasons to be as busy as I am, but the words now seem so hollow. They echo like excuses, making noise but meaning nothing.
All of the internal struggle I’ve uncovered this summer has led me to a better place. All of my busyness wasn’t going to fix my value. I surrounded myself with some pretty amazing people in a Bible study last year though, and I began to replace the lies I had believed about myself and my worth with true statements from Jesus. Once my ideas concerning my worth changed, then I was able to slow down the pace of my life. I am able to say “no” to things that don’t really apply to me, all without fear of letting others down. I am able to leave margin in my daily life, knowing that sometimes life happens in wide open spaces. I am able to filter my passion and my drive through a simple list of my priorities, finding that I’m plenty busy without all of my stress and striving.
Generations of people will be blessed because I’m willing to make these tough decisions today. All the seeds we’re planting, all the hope we’re giving, all the joy we share… who knows the value of such things? Identifying the items for my priority list is definitely easier than remembering them, but the difficulties just prove they’re worth fighting for. They mark my life in so many evident and unforeseen ways, but I wouldn’t change it for the world. The hard times have come and gone, but I would bet that they return again. When they do, we’ll be ready because we’ve already chosen what matters most.