Hello, My Name is MarthaPosted: July 21, 2008
Pastor Mike preached a message entitled “Simplicty” at our church a couple of weeks ago. Actually, I think he just had a few things that he wanted to say to me and just decided to share them with me from the pulpit rather than calling me into his office. Seriously, this message was EXACTLY what I needed to hear.
P. Mike shared the story of Mary and Martha from Luke 10:38-42. In this story, Martha was preoccupied with all the details while Mary simply sat at the feet of Jesus. Here are a few things we learn about Martha:
1. Martha was worried about many things. She was anxious and concerned. Martha took things that weren’t in her control and tried to influence them. She was so consumed with all of these things that she couldn’t think about anything else.
2. Martha was upset, angry, stirred up, and inwardly troubled.
After these two brief descriptions of Martha, I felt like her name and mine could be interchangeable. If someone were to describe me in the midst of certain circumstances, it would be easy to say that Amy is worried, anxious, concerned, controlling, consumed, upset, angry, stirred up, and inwardly troubled. In my life, this is often masked by being the queen of organization, planning, hosting, etc. It is my inward desire for everyone to see me as good…as the person they can depend on…as a friend that they need. Although these are not necessarily bad aspirations, it is the recognition of people that becomes my daily motivation, not the desire to know, love, and serve God. You would think that I would get a hint when some of my dear friends/loved ones have given me the following 3 books as gifts:
P. Mike then suggested 4 ways to simplify my life:
1. Do things tempered by love NOT by anxiety or obligation. Anxiety is the sense of things that I can’t control, a result of a lack of planning, or being consumed by the question, “What do people think?” Obligation is the question we ask in our minds on someone else’s behalf and then answer it for them. In my life, I start doing things out of love and in some circumstances, I continue to do things out of love; however, by doing one thing, I feel that I set a standard for myself that others expect me to fulfill on a regular basis, therefore, my mindset quickly turns to anxiety and obligation. Despite my efforts to convince myself that I have the freedom to just love people, I somehow come to the conclusion that it is much easier and more efficient to be obligated. P. Mike went on to point out that we all, to some degree, live according to unspoken expectaions which makes our lives very complex. A problem arises when we have an obligation but haven’t even asked a question. Before Nick and I got married, we did counseling with Terry Ewing, founder of Plumbline Ministries. After spending a short time with me, Terry quickly realized my obsession with obligation and unspoken expectations. After spending a short time with Nick, he realized Nick’s need to be a people pleaser which leads to a tendency to make suggestions (dream outloud) without necessarily having the intention to follow through. Knowing this, he suggested that Nick and I use an agreement book in our marriage. Anytime Nick and I have a discussion about a pending decision or plan, we decide whether it is just a dream/thought or worthy of being written in our agreement book. This strategy allows Nick the freedom to continue to dream outloud and allows me the comfort of having specific commitments.
2. Guard our hearts against anger (a sense of injustice) or bitterness (you’ve done something wrong against me). Many times, I excuse my obsession with details and efficiency by believing that it makes the world a much better place for everyone who is fortunate enough to be within my circle of influence. This would be AMAZING if everything that I did was purely motivated by love with no expectation for anything in return. When I live my life consumed with obligation to other people, it is very easy to become bitter toward people who don’t operate under the same obligation toward me. Oftentimes, I find myself keeping a subconscious checklist in my mind of everything I have done for people vs. everything they have or haven’t done for me.
3. Plan. Planning takes discipline but it allows us the freedom to walk more simply. I’ve got planning down. For our wedding, I sent out a 6 page itinerary to every person that was involved in our wedding in any way. Each itinerary was specifically highlighted for the individual person and mailed to him/her 2 weeks in advance. (Sidenote: I stole this idea from one of my bridesmaids, Allison, who got married 2 years before I did. I love her because she is just as OCD as me.) I was mercilessly teased for my itinerary; however, I did not receive ONE last minute phone call on the day of my wedding. EVERYONE knew where EVERYTHING was and when EVERYTHING was going to happen. I would also like to mention that not ONE Trinidadian was late to our wedding 🙂 However, my obsession with planning often prevents me from enjoying the moment or the freedom to go against the routine. I must say that Nick’s family has really helped me to RELAX and enjoy the moment. They do not move on a schedule but they also never miss an opportunity to cherish time with their friends and family.
4. Rest. when it’s time to play, play. When it’s time to work, work. When it’s time to rest, rest. Silly as it may seem, I have to use my planning ability to ensure that I rest. Nick and I have to make time to sit down with our schedule and plan time to rest at least once a week. When we neglect doing this, it becomes very obvious in our relationship with each other and in our attitudes towards our friends and family.
P. Mike closed by pointing out that all acts outside the work of the cross will be taken away from us. Spending time with God, however, cannot be taken away from us. God doesn’t want us to feel overwhelmed, have a complicated life, or feel angry because of injustices. He wants to take care of us and let us rest in Him.
Thank you, P. Mike, for the wonderful reminders and simple words of encouragement. This sermon has been replaying in my mind over and over throughout the last couple of weeks. I would have blogged about it sooner but I was too busy worrying, being anxious, and trying to control things that were out of my control… 🙂