Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Weary of Doing Good

Maybe it's the plague of women... or maybe it's a personality type. But to all the Martha's out there - you're not alone, though more often than not, it can feel that way.

My sophomore year of college, I made an unexpected move into our campus apartments. I was placed with a group of girls I didn't know well, except for my roommate, and probably the hardest of all... we were all incredibly different. That year taught me so much about myself as a person, and I'm thankful for that, but for the first time in my life, I realized I was a Martha.

I quickly discovered that different people can live with different levels of mess, and not everyone appreciates a proper chore chart. At some point, I just gave up. No one was listening. They didn't share my values - they had their own values. So in order to scratch this "mom itch" I was developing, I started cleaning the apartment by myself - the kitchen, the living room and the bathroom. And believe me, I was bitter.

And I was tired.

So very tired.

It's easy to romanticize and turn yourself into a martyr/Cinderella type when you hit that place.

But in contrast to myself, there was another girl I lived with who was the epitome of a Mary. She was always compassionate, but never sad. Joyful, never discouraged. And she knew even less about pop culture than I did (an impressive feat, considering my ignorance). It was so incredibly bizarre to me.

When was the last time you read Luke 10?
38 Now as they went on their way, Jesus[a] entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. 39 And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet and listened to his teaching. 40 But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” 41 But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, 42 but one thing is necessary.[b] Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”
When I read this, the line, "do you not care that my sister was left me to serve alone?" stands out. That was my cry everyday. I felt overworked and exhausted. I wanted God to step in and give me the help I needed. I wanted him to change the people around me. But look down a little bit - "You are anxious and troubled about all these things," Jesus tells her, "but one thing is necessary."

He goes on to say that Mary chose the better option - to sit and listen at his feet.

That just... baffles me. Some days, I don't even know how to do that.

I was washing dishes the other day while trying to pray - it's become a goal of mine, to talk to God all the time - to pray without ceasing. But I kept getting distracted. The bitterness was creeping up on me again. It's been a battle since sophomore year.

But I made a commitment after that second year of college. I hated feeling bitter - it just ate at me and left me depressed. So I decided to change my motivation: instead of cleaning because no one else did, I committed to clean because I wanted to. To clean as a means of being kind. To clean simply because I could, and because I had the time. Oh and trust me, I was so much happier. I AM so much happier.

Still, I won't deny that I get tired sometimes. Jesus is supposed to refresh me, but I'm not so good at sitting at his feet. I'd much rather be busy.

Because of that, I hit a wall. At a certain point, I just couldn't keep up, and I felt like I was failing at every turn. Some days, I could wash a mountain of dishes, wash all the towels, and sweep and mop the floors - even clean the stove. Other days, I could barely care enough to wash my own dishes and whenever I went home for a vacation, I didn't have the urge to help there. I felt like such a massive failure.

But as a little kid, my parents liked to play Sunday School music for us at home. Those songs still get stuck in my head. One of them, is quickly becoming a favorite of mine - Steve Green's, "If We Don't Lose Heart." It's based off of Galatians 6:9
Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. 10 So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.
That was exactly the wall I hit. I was weary and I wanted to give up.

But you see... you can't do things by your own strength for very long and not expect disaster. Doing something on your own, for your own satisfaction, is exhausting. And it's a corruption of God's perfect intentions. Sometimes, you have to sit at the feet of the Father and replenish your exhausted spirit.

Jeremiah 32:27 reads, "Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh. Is anything too hard for me?" 

In him, we can do all things. But alone, we easily tire and become exhausted.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with wanting a clean apartment. A clean home. There's nothing wrong with wanting to take care of the people I live with. That is such a great ambition. It's good. But I have quickly found that I can't do it in and of myself. Not when I'm spiritually exhausted. Everything in my life falls apart when I'm spiritually exhausted. My academic work. My friendships. My home.

It's not my first inclination, but sometimes, I need practice being more like Mary, for as Jesus said, there is one thing that's more important than taking care of everyone, and that's sitting at his feet.

There's this great verse in Matthew 11, it reads, "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."

Oh, how I wish that for you, my other Marthas - the do-ers. Somehow, you've found yourself doing it all and you're struggling. You're overwhelmed and bitter. You can't do it alone. Your ambition is noble, but your foundation is shaky. Set all your work aside for a moment and sit at Jesus feet. Let your bitter heart be mended by his words, and lean on his incredible strength. For only with him can you carry on.

And let's pray that we don't let so much time pass between our trips to his feet.

And that verse about reaping... Let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap... you want to know something interesting about reaping? It's not for us. It's not about that gratification you feel when someone finally notices and appreciates your hard word. It's about something eternal.

When you washed the dishes... whose dishes did you wash? What was their day like? Maybe they just needed a little bit of extra help. In that moment, you were God's hands and feet, giving them the help they needed. Whatever you do for your brothers and sisters in Christ, it's as if you did it for God himself (Matt 25:40).

That's reaping... and it's a whole lot more satisfying.

But for God to use you... you have to sit at his feet. How else will you know what he wants to do today?

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