Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Where we are this week and why my nickname should probably be "Martha"

As many of you no doubt know, Krista and I work with the Worldwide Student Network. Basically, my job is to help Christian college students who want to serve as missionaries overseas to get there... whether for a week, a summer, a year, or the rest of their lives. We partner together with people from all over the world so that our students can go nearly anywhere they believe God is calling them to reach other college students with the good news about Jesus Christ.

This week, Krista and I are meeting with our national team -- everyone else who does the same job as us in the United States. We've been on this team for seven years now, and we've become really great friends with a lot of people on the team, so although we do a LOT of work during our time together, the highlight is often spending time with one another and being refreshed by some people who understand exactly what it's like to have the same job as us.

We really love what we do and who we get to do it with... and it doesn't hurt that our meetings this week are in Oceanside, California, where I've seen dolphins every day and also men with tattoos rather than shirts.

Mary and Martha by He Qi.
Yesterday, Keith Bubalo (the big boss himself) led us in a really excellent devotional time about Mary and Martha when they are hosting Jesus in their home. It really got me thinking about my response to Jesus, and quite a lot of other things. Some issues in the story that have been bothering me after some reflection:

1) The house is referred to as "Martha's house" which means that she did have an obligation to be a good host... she was worried and distracted by her actual responsibilities.

2) When she talks to Jesus about how Mary isn't helping her, Jesus doesn't tell her to stop making preparations for dinner (or whatever she was doing). He just says that Mary has chosen what is better and it won't be taken from her.

3) Jesus didn't invite Mary OR Martha to sit at his feet and listen. Mary chose to do so, Martha didn't. Because she was serving Jesus. She is not rebuked for this.

After Keith's devotional, I have to ask myself the question of whether I am serving Christ in the absence of listening to him, and I think the answer is often yes. When I stop and think about whether Martha should have left her responsibilities to sit and listen to Jesus, I wonder if he would have even encouraged that (a sure sign that I relate to Martha, I think). I mean, when the disciples suggested that the crowds go to get food, wasn't it Jesus who said, "They don't need to go away, you feed them"?

Also, I'd like to think that Jesus is going to work hard to get my attention, to shake me loose from my everyday responsibilities and say, "Look at me, I have something to tell you" but in this story he certainly did not do that. He let Mary and Martha both choose what they would like to do, and he didn't tell either of them to do something different (though he did tell Martha that she was worried about lots of things instead of the one thing that really mattered).

I find that pretty much every day the voice I listen to is that of Martha. There are things that need to be done, and like Martha they are good things, and they are in service to Jesus, and they are honestly done out of commitment to him. And, frankly, there are the voices of my friends and those around me who are saying the same thing... telling me about even more things that need to be done, job responsibilities that need to be accomplished better or another way, new crises to deal with, people to talk to, commissions to be fulfilled, rights to be wronged, lives to be saved. And in the midst of that, I can't even see the way to set it all aside and sit and listen for an hour, to hear what the messiah might say. Not even what he might say... what he is saying in the room next door to those who are sitting and listening, as I bustle around and cook the fish and fill the water jars and make the bed.

And I realized, maybe this devotional is the closest thing to an invitation to sit and listen... this reminder that I am worried about many things but only one thing is necessary and that it's not too late, that I can choose what truly matters.

So here I am, standing with a basket in my hands, in the middle of my work, trying to find a path that leads from where I am standing, surrounded by all that needs to be done to the place I want to be... through the crowds sitting in the living room, to the very front, to sit at his feet. And I honestly don't see how to do it, how you can set everything aside to hear from him.

But I'm going to try. I'm going to go try right now....