There’s something about starting a new year that makes me want to clean out and move forward with a lighter load. This year, my desire has been further fueled by the efforts my daughter Mary has made to shed stuff and redecorate her lovely home. It may be her nesting instincts spurring her on or the urgency of needing to help 2-year old Lyla settle into her “big-girl” room before baby Emma arrives. Regardless, seeing what she’s achieved while 7-months pregnant has both inspired me and put me to shame.
I’m a keeper by nature. I find it difficult to part with things that may be useful at some point in the future or were given to me by loved ones. Ok, so that covers a lot of territory. It also explains, for example, why you’ll find lots of buttons in the bottom of my sewing basket – you know the ones that come on shirts, jackets, pants, etc. in case one of the originals ever falls off – and the fact I have every birthday card my girls have ever given me. In spite of my tendency to hold onto things, I don’t consider myself to be a hoarder. After all, there’s plenty of room to walk around in my house without bumping into stacks of old magazines and I’m able to use my garage for its intended purpose.
Nevertheless, every now and then the results of my being a keeper start to wear on me, especially when I get to experience the positive effects of someone else’s house cleaning efforts.
Our living environments aren’t the only thing that can become cluttered, as many of us feel weighed down, even overwhelmed, by to dos associated with the demands of daily living. Joanna Weaver addresses our plight in her book, “Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World”. The story of the two sisters, recorded in Luke 10:38-42, resonates with modern readers even though the events it relates happened almost 2,000 years ago:
As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” (NIV Bible)
A cursory read might lead one to conclude Jesus was condemning Martha’s Type A personality and it’s tempting to stereotype the two sisters, labeling one driven and the other laid back. But our temperaments and abilities are God-given and it takes all kinds of people to accomplish his purposes. No, Jesus wasn’t chiding Martha for her work ethic. He wanted her to realize her focus was off, a message quite similar to the one in Matthew 6 when Jesus told his listeners not to worry about what they would eat, drink or wear, but to seek first his kingdom and his righteousness.
Of everyone who’s ever walked the earth, Jesus alone was capable of “doing it all”, but he didn’t. Instead, he sought to do his Father’s will in all things and to finish the work he’d been sent to do. In Ephesians 2, Paul says believers are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Isn’t that amazing? Even though God could accomplish everything himself, he allows us to participate in achieving his purposes and equips and enables us to do so.
Too often my mind is cluttered with the demands of the day and my thoughts race from one task to another wondering how I’ll ever get it all done. But more and more, God is reminding me to focus before doing. To seek him and his righteousness. To be still so I can hear him when he says, “This is the way. Walk in it.”
And when I do, He’s faithful to help me determine what is the better part.