Martha, Martha

I’ve been reading the story of Mary and Martha a lot lately.  (Luke 10:38-42) It keeps coming up somehow.  That’s too vague.  What I mean is that God keeps bringing it up.  Because I am totally Martha. Distracted by all the things that need to be done.

When I was a kid I read this story and thought, “Yes.  Priorities.  Sitting at the Lord’s feet is way more important than kneading bread, Martha.  Duh.  Take a clue from your sister.”  The message was clear.  I liked this story as a kid for its simplicity – even a child can understand that.

I got a little older and thought, “Yes.  Priorities.  Sitting at the Lord’s feet is way more important than doing all the tasks I always seem to feel like I need to do. Take a clue from Mary.”  I realized that I was more like Martha than like Mary (around about the time I started becoming an adult responsible for getting things done.) I worked on having my quiet time in the morning and putting God first.  (And stopped saying Duh.)

Then I got a little older (how does that keep happening?!) and thought, “Yes.  Priorities.  Relationships are more important than tasks.  Huh.  Take a hint, Andra.”  This took a little longer to grasp.  Not just Jesus (who definitely is the most important of all), but all of my relationships are more important than vacuuming.  I have to fight for this in my mind daily.

Then I got a little older and thought, “But goodness, SOMEONE has to get that cleaned up.  SOMEONE has to cook the meal.  SOMEONE has to write that email.  Lord, don’t you care that this work has to be done?  Which is it – tasks or people?”  (This was yesterday, by the way, so there isn’t much getting older in this story.)  I would LOVE to just sit around and play games with my husband, read books with a kid on each thigh all afternoon, call up all my friends every evening, throw the paperwork to the wind (Can I say that again?  It just sounds so deliciously wonderful.  Throw the paperwork to the wind.)  (And…one more time.  Throw the paperwork to the wind.  Ahhh.  Okay, I’m back.  Thanks.)

“Andra, Andra,” the Lord answered, “you are concerned about many things.”  Yes, I know.  And they won’t go away without me taking care of them.  I’m not asking for someone else to help me with them.  I really think they are my responsibility.  That, I get.  But how am I supposed to get them done and still sit at the Lord’s feet?  Still put relationships first?  This frustrates me like crazy.

I know.  Balance your time.  Take care of the people first and then you will have time to take care of your work.  Put the big rocks into your jar first and all the pebbles and sand and water will fit but if I put the pebbles and sand and water in first, the big rocks won’t fit. I know all that.  It’s not helping me.

“Only one thing is needed,” Jesus said to her.  Do I really believe that?  Just one thing?  Surely He didn’t mean we don’t need to cook.  My family would starve.  That’s not helpful for the relationship.  So what did He mean?

I think He meant right then.  One thing that evening.  Jesus, the Lord and Savior, is sitting in your house for that day.  Do you A. Make bread to serve him or B. Sit and listen to Him.  It’s your big chance, maybe your only chance, to hear the Son of God in your own house, one on one (well, two on one since Mary’s already at it.)  That choice is clear.  There should be no doubt, if Martha really thought about it.  If she had just stopped for two seconds to ask the right question.

How many things are needed?

That’s my question.  How many things are really, truly needed right now.  Sometimes, five things are needed.  So prioritize those five things and get at it.  But sometimes, only one thing is needed.  I may think that ten other things need to get done.  They probably do need to get done.  Later. But right then, only one thing is needed.  And if I can chose what is better it will not be taken away from me.  The dirty dishes may not be taken away from me either, but they will be there later.  The relational chance may not.


The Re-Entry

We’re prepping to be back in the States for a bit.  This is always a big deal for us – buying tickets is expensive and I always feel like I’m playing the lottery.  Sure, plop down this huge amount of money and just hope that nothing happens to prevent us from getting on that plane (like a traffic jam or worse).  Yikes.  It’s a big deal for us because our kids love love love to travel.  My son was ready to pull out the suitcases two months ago.  It’s a big deal for us because we get to see family again after months (or never, in the case of my two new nephew/nieces.  How do you make that plural when they aren’t the same?  My five new nephces.  My kids’ five new cousins.  Agh, English.) of not seeing them.

So we think and plan and dream and worry, all at the same time.  You would think, being Americans, that it would be all one big high.  We’re coming HOME!  But what does home mean?  I mean, for a traveller.  (Not where the heart is.  I mean really, specifically, what does home mean?)  We have our house and friends and school and work here.  We also have some residue of culture shock and language barrier here.  Less and less, but it’s always going to be there, that we don’t quite fit in.

The first few years of living here, returning to America meant that this culture shock, language barrier and “alienness” would dissolve and we would be among our own kind, our own people (is this sounding like we’re Martians?) who understood and we understood back.  About everything.  How to make a line behind the cash register.  How to order a sandwich.  What to do with your shopping cart.  Where to park your car.  It was a huge relief.  Familiar food.  Directions on the cleaning bottle that I could understand.  Medicine I knew was safe to give my kids.  Relief, relief, relief.  And joy.  I could make jokes.  I could understand jokes.  I could catch up on people’s lives.  Real chocolate chips.

The last time we were back, though, I found that certain things were a little bit of a culture shock for me in America.  I’ve heard of “reverse culture shock” and finally it hit me.  Tortillas (which I grew up on) are too sweet.  (Actually, everything was.  I suddenly could taste the added sugar in everything.  Why do tortillas need sugar??) Shopping carts were littered all over the parking lot (you get your “deposit coin” back when you lock it back into the cart area here, so there’s never ever been a stray shopping cart.)  Grocery bags were not filled to the brim until they started ripping (a pet peeve of mine here) but wastefully filled with about two items.

So great, I’m not at home anywhere.  It has begun- life as a nomad.  I might as well buy myself a tent.

I’m a little nervous about what is going to be a shock to me this time around.  Is even more of my “home” going to feel strange and alien to me this time around?  Will more and more chunks of my previous life fall off with each visit?

I’ve talked to my husband about this.  He’s reminded me over and over that our citizenship is in heaven, and the less we feel at home here on earth, the more we yearn for our real, lasting home.  Heaven is solid, God is unchanging, and when I get there, I will stay there.  Forever.  Suitcase and culture shock free.

In the meantime, at least you still speak English, right?