Mental slates, etched with lists—projects imposed from within, partnerships of giving, deadlines and logistics from without—the red tape and brown earth that define our waking hours and the labour of our hands. This is where I’ve been writing, been scratching, been wanting to cross out and wipe off. Big items: large because of their unknown daunting workload; avoided items: procrastinated because the labour measurement is known, and dreaded—these things mark the back wall of my mind.
So, I’ve been piddling. These little things and big things and concrete things that need doing, they’re boring, known, un-thrilling. They’re the stuff of normal life.
I never considered myself a procrastinator, because I am always busy with one thing or another, and a busy day is a worthwhile day, right? If motion is constant, surely it is better than stagnation. But this nagging shadow creeps across the sunshine of my long work days: what if the things you are doing are keeping you from the things you should be doing?
What if all the fluttering is because I’m afraid of the narrowing demanded by single focus? I know enough of my jack-in-the-box tendencies, after all, I’m one of those multi-tasking people: highly efficient, and thus, highly desired. Aren’t I? Am I? Is that who I want to be?
And I think of the sisters who lived and laboured together in dusty, oppressively-hot Israel. The one scurried and hustled: so efficient, pristine in her domesticity; but inside, she ached for more. She took offense when her younger sister could just sit and do nothing . . . she’d worked all her life to get to a place where there was nothing to do, but could never achieve it. The struggle ripped her to shreds, so she didn’t know whether she was coming or going, fighting against what she wanted the most, afraid to release her own ridiculous ideals of herself. If she stopped, would Mary pick up the pieces? No, she would stay sitting, and let the house fall down.
Martha could not rescue herself from the futility of her labours; because her labouring was only a symptom of her inner bondage. The house chores were never the issue—Martha would not sit still and learn, would not be quiet in her heart, would not let the silence search her soul. Martha was terrified of exposure, so she fought it with frenzied goodness.
I can’t save myself from my downfall, my default to stress and strain, my habit of cramming life so it feels full. I’m not supposed to save myself.
The difference for Martha, the difference for me, is not a change of situation, but a change of position. Jesus spoke, and transformed Martha from a worker to a worshipper. In the future, Martha would work and serve again, because that’s what she did. Jesus just changed the reason why, the unction of the heart, the first purpose.
So, the outside does not always change. We go on arranging and rearranging (that’s all work is, after all: moving an item from one place to another, be it a man’s fascia, or a crystal bowl, or a dust particle), but the heart changes.
I thought I had to change who I am, what I am, what I do, and how I do it. Jesus comes, and says, “Love Me with your heart, with your soul, with your mind, with your strength.” He knows who I am. He made me to function whole and holy by His indwelling life.
And the slate slowly clears, the blank space is good. I do not need to fear an empty-looking future, or a confusing present, or a dissatisfying past. “I will fear no evil, for YOU are with me. Your rod, and Your staff, they comfort me.”
Because, at the end of the long work day, the only thing I will have to show Him is what He has given me: the mark that I am His, and He is mine, and that’s all I need, really, to truly live.
(photo courtesy of goole image, because I'm no photographer)