Here in New York City, our culture is very much go-go-go. We rise and shine, hustle in the daily grind, and then repeat it all over again. It’s pretty much the way life is here.
To be busy is pretty much a cultural expectation. We must be doing something right if we’re busy. We’re aspiring; we’re succeeding; we’re making strides. Or, at least, that’s how it appears.
At times, we find our value in doing since we’re meeting the cultural expectation.
This is something that I have struggled with for a long time and I didn’t even realize it until I withdrew from the busyness.
During my battle with anxiety and panic attacks, my husband and I made a tough call and we decided that I would stop working. It was something we felt I had to do in order to heal and get well.
Despite the fact that I knew the decision would help me, it was extremely difficult for me.
What would I do with myself?
What would I do with my time?
My husband and I both worked in full-time ministry and, as true perfectionists, we lent ourselves to be the work-a-holic types.
So, I went from maintaining a busy schedule to not working at all. It was like going cold turkey.
The hardest thing for me was: What will others think of me?
To me being busy was a good thing. It meant I was good at something. It meant I was smart, successful, and hardworking. I found my value in being busy.
In my mind, others would perceive me as someone who was just sitting around all day. They would think of me as lazy. I would be seen as someone who was unsuccessful.
The idea of resting and being still brought about a lot of unrest in my mind and heart.
It has been over three years since I stopped working. Since then I have become a stay-at-home mom and, unfortunately, finding value in being busy is something I still struggle with. As you can tell from my previous blog posts, being still is not my forte.
In the Bible, Jesus’ friend Martha was very much like me.
Martha invited Jesus to her home and she planned a big dinner in his honor.
“As Jesus and the disciples continued on their way to Jerusalem, they came to a village where a woman named Martha welcomed them into her home. Her sister Mary sat on the floor, listening to Jesus as he talked. But Martha was the jittery type and was worrying over the big dinner she was preparing. She came to Jesus and said, ‘Sir, doesn’t it seem unfair to you that my sister just sits here while I do all the work? Tell her to come and help me.’ But the Lord said to her, ‘Martha, dear friend, you are so upset over all these details! There is really one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it—and I won’t take it way from her!’” (Luke 10:38-42, TLB).
In Jesus’ day, women kept busy by taking care of their home, their children, cooking meals, cleaning, drawing water, etc. It was the “cultural expectation” for them to handle those responsibilities. Martha prided herself in meeting those expectations. In her mind, it was good for her to be busy and concerned over the dinner preparations for Jesus, that’s what she was supposed to be doing. Sitting and being still was probably the last thing on her mind.
Her sister, Mary, on the other hand, left all the preparations for her to handle. Mary decided to sit at the feet of Jesus. She chose to be still—to rest at His feet.
In those times it wasn’t a woman’s place to listen to the teachings of a Rabbi—that was the role of a man.
Mary went against what culture said she should be doing and she sat with Jesus.
To the onlooker Martha was doing all the right things. She was busy accomplishing her duties, and she was probably doing them with great care and excellence since she was doing them for Jesus.
Mary, however, wasn’t bustling about. She was still. And, yet, Jesus states that what Mary was doing was really the only thing to be concerned about. According to Jesus, Mary had discovered something that He would not take away from her. She tapped into something that few people truly get.
Mary tapped into being instead of doing.
She was being still. But, in her stillness, she was being attentive. She was being fully present.
Mary could have multi-tasked and helped her sister Martha while she also listened to Jesus’ teaching. But, no – she chose to sit, cease from activity, and probably lock eyes with Jesus as if no one else was in the room. She perhaps thought to herself, I may not have this opportunity again.
Mary chose what was best and I’m sure she never regretted that decision.
At times, I find myself having the same “jittery” disposition as Martha. Worrying about so many things. Checking off items on my to-do list. Making meal preparations. Cleaning up. Paying bills. Going to doctor’s appointments. Planning out activities. Making sure the kids are learning and being stimulated in various ways.
And, unfortunately, in the hustle and bustle, I often overlook the thing that truly matters the most—being instead of doing.
I’m realizing that I not only struggle in this area in my relationship with Jesus. But also in my relationships with those who matter the most to me.
In the busyness of me doing, I forget to be a friend to my husband. I rattle off all the errands he has to run and at times I forget to simply ask him how he’s doing.
In the busyness of me doing, I forget to simply be a mama to my boys. Instead of taking a few minutes to find out the latest about a Star Wars, or Lego character, and engage in conversation that would mean the world to my son, I run from room to room picking up toys and franticly correct my children for their mess like some kind of military officer.
In the busyness of me doing, I forget to be there for my family and friends. Rather than pick up the phone to check in on my grandmother, I scan my to-do list and convince myself that I will definitely make time for that tomorrow.
But, tomorrow is not a guarantee.
I’m praying that God would help me to number my days so that I would gain a heart of wisdom (Psalm 90:12). Wisdom in making decisions; wisdom in my relationships; and wisdom in the use of my time.
Are you like me, and Martha? Worried about so many things? Things, that in the long-scope, will not really matter?
I encourage you today to be still.
Pick up the phone and call that person you’ve been meaning to call for some time now. Treat your child to a one-on-one date. Sit at the feet of Jesus with nothing on the agenda but just to worship Him and hear from Him.
I promise you, you won’t regret it.
PS – One thing that has helped me really be intentional about being still and being present with Jesus has been a new app called First 5. This app has helped me give undivided attention to Jesus and His word. And, it has challenged me to give my first five minutes of my day to the Lord. Being with Jesus for the first five minutes of each day, has helped me get through whatever comes my way throughout the day. Check out their site! The app is free!