38 Now it happened as they went that He entered a certain village; and a certain woman named Martha welcomed Him into her house. 39 And she had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus’feet and heard His word. 40 But Martha was distracted with much serving, and she approached Him and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me.” 41 And Jesus answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. 42 But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:38-42) As a teenager I was Mary 100% of the time. The Truth was I had been a mess and Jesus rescued me. I felt like I identified with the verse, "He who is forgiven much, loves much." I had been forgiven when I had forsaken, and all I wanted was to sit at His feet and gaze in His eyes. Days felt like romance as I spent time in prayer, worship, and the Word. Nothing felt like a burden, life truly felt like bliss with Him. Unfortunately, it only took a few years and a job in ministry before I'd picked up Martha's lifestyle. Overly concerned with the "to do's" of the Christian walk and ministry, I found intimacy substituted for achieving tasks. It is my "personality" that I normally score on the "task oriented" side of tests, but how many of you know that once you are born again you're given a new nature and the "normal" that once was, has been traded in for His normal. Truth be told your new normal looks like being possessed by Holy Spirit as He leads you and guides you on when to sit at His feet and when to get up and do the dishes. In 2012 I had another eye opening experience that shifted me back from Martha to Mary. If you've been around me long you've probably heard the story before, but for the sake of new readers I'll share it again. I was lying in my tent in S. Sudan, an active war zone. I was tired emotionally, physically, and spiritually. My body hurt from days of sleeping on the ground, being pulled around by kids, and doing manual labor. I was hungry and not for more Jesus, but for more food. Sleep deprived from nights on hard ground full of demonic encounters and nightmares, hungry from one too many meals of beans and posho I lay in my tent I began to hear the sound of voices singing in worship. I muttered to God, "Can't you just make them shut up?"His response still knocks my gut a little, "I like it". I won't say I always respond well to His likes and dislikes, but I knew enough to carefully assess this situation before I said something else stupid. I chose to grab my recorder and walk out to the thing that would cause my Father to say, "I like it". When I saw what He liked all I could do was hit my knees and allow the tears to flow. As I climbed out of my small tent, walked to the gate, came out to the center of the property I found children 2-30 worshipping on their own. No leader, no missionary, no one had prompted or bribed them to come worship at the divine hour of 12 a.m. They were there, singing passionately, "Our God is an awesome God..." Why? Why these children who have seen parents slaughtered, who have known true hunger, many who walked miles and miles to find refuge, WHY are they singing that our God is an awesome God and they're not in a church service where they'll get free lunch? I cried. I ugly cried. I went back to my tent and I fell on my face before the One I now felt I had assaulted with my disregard. I asked Him, "WHAT IS DIFFERENT ABOUT THEM?". His response changed my life. "Jessika, you love me, but they are IN LOVE with me" Yes it was one of the most humbling moments of my existence. The children I had come to help were teaching me what it was like to Love. They not only loved God, they loved people, they loved me, they loved each other, they loved their parents murderers, they loved their sisters rapists, they knew what love was. I didn't... I came home flipped turned around on my head, my theological achievement brain on a tilt. And then it happened again... Life happened. Ministry happened. And only about two years later I found myself back in the kitchen forgetting what it was like to simply sit at His feet. Now mind you, I'm not saying I didn't spent time with God, I'm not saying I didn't love Him, I'm simply trying to show that I would find that I had made it more about what needed to be done rather than enjoying the journey with Him. Most of what I thought needed to be done revolved around getting people saved, fixing church issues, changing nations, mentoring students, all great things, but none deserving priority over His face. Again, most have probably heard the story so I'll shorten this one up. Come off the mission field and have a literal emotional breakdown. I found myself unable to "perform". I couldn't "do" all the things that I thought were expected of me from God and man. It started out simply difficult to minister, disciple, or do those tasks, but it snow balled into being basically unable to function. I couldn't sleep or eat, I didn't go longer than 10 minutes without anxiety and rarely did I make it through a few hours without a panic attack. Aka: Complete emotional breakdown. It was here that He met me again. He drew me back in to His heart. Struggling as badly as I was (now moved out to Redding) I had hours where I would sit on the couch, lay on the bed, and just talk with Him. I went through Holy Spirit therapy. I RE-learned that God actually wasn't near as concerned about what I "did" as I was. He just really loved me, He really wanted me, He really enjoyed me. Even when I couldn't "perform". I found we had TONS to talk about that didn't have to do with child soldiers, justice in the nations, preaching sermons, mentoring that teenager, this or that church issue, even revival. We talked about likes/dislikes, we laughed, we joked, He pursued, so did I, yes it was very much going back to my "first love". It was remembering the joy and simplicity of my salvation. It was being reminded that I had value to Him even if I never preach another sermon or went to another nation. It was being reminded that God is a very people oriented God, so much so that He died on the cross for people that would never even accept Him. That's love. That's devotion apart from works. That's acceptance. That's mercy. So when is it okay to be a Martha? "So when Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him but Mary remained seated in the house." (John 11:20) Something happened from the time that she was busy busy serving in the house to this time where she ran out to meet Jesus. Something changed how Martha thought. Her mind was renewed after an encounter, I'd even say a confrontation, with Jesus. Jesus rebuked Martha (Jesus never was and still is not afraid of confrontation to present Truth) He told her that she was concerned with "duty" rather than intimacy. Culturally Martha should have stayed back at home with Mary, mourning the death of Lazarus. Fortunately, Martha had made that mistake before, and she had LEARNED that His face was always a better pursuit. Seeking Him is better than "religious duty", it's better than religious customs, it's better than being culturally accepted. Martha ran to Him and through herself at Him, instead of waiting for Him to come to her.
Martha has a bad rep, unnecessarily so. She missed it, but she repented, and I believe she changed. It's okay to be a Martha. Allow your encounters with His correction transform you. It's easy to get caught up in the things that need to be done. It's easy to take on the responsibility of tasks and to do's. Reality reveals responsibility. There's no doubt there's plenty of things to do for God. There's wars to stop, peace to bring, sinners to be saved, lost to be found, sick to be healed, broken to be restored, and on and on and on. As Jesus said, "you will always have the poor with you". There's no doubt we have much to do for Him, but He should always be the priority, and all ministry must flow from intimacy with Him. Otherwise, we've completely lost the point.
Be Blessed, J. Tate