Tag Archives: Mary-Martha

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I have always liked the movie Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.  The story starts with the main character, Adam, looking for a wife.  He wants a wife who is "young and strong and had a lot of work in her."  He wants her to be beautiful.  Other than that, in his mind, one woman is pretty much like another.  Of course, by the end of the movie, his heart changes.

This Adam was definitely made in the image of God as I saw Him.  I could say God loved me, but the only supporting evidence I knew for that was that He had died for me.   However, what I perceived was that God wanted me for my work, for what I had to give.  Of course, I didn't think God was selfish.  He didn't want me to give for His own sake; He wanted me to give for the sake of the world.

The first reason I had for believing this is sheer need.  People are in deep need.  There are the lost, those who haven't heard and believed in God.  There are the poor.  There are those who don't have water and food.  There are the orphans and the widows.  I saw an immense amount of need, so I perceived God as a Father who is never satisfied.  Again, I didn't think this was wrong of God, though my heart did.  I felt that the need was so great and urgent that even when I give, it is never enough, and I should give more.

I was very tired.  I didn't spend money on myself.  I didn't rest.  I labored for the Lord.  I kept giving and giving and giving to God.  My prayer list grew longer and longer.  I didn't read just for fun.  Instead I read devotional books.  I rarely watched movies.  I fasted.  I was both proud of everything I had given up for God and jealous of others because they had the things for which I couldn't stop longing.  I remember being so hungry (not physically hungry, but longing hungry) that I prayed desperately, "Please, God, I just want something nice.  Please give me something nice."  Almost immediately, a friend called.  That was about the only nice thing I thought pleased God.

God began to untangle this.  First, He made me buy china.  I had been looking at the china online for four years.  I was proud of my sacrificing the china for God.  I had given it up for the kingdom.   But somehow, I began to feel that God wanted me to buy the china.  I argued with Him, then I understood God to say, "You can't give to me anymore if you won't let me give to you."  We (my husband and I) bought the china.  It is beautiful, and it has helped me to see God's love for me.

God also told me I needed to learn to feast, to rejoice.  Then He asked me whether my self-restrictions were working to remove desire.  I had to admit they weren't.  I still longed for the things I was denying myself.  He told me, "I did not put desires in your heart in order for you to prove how much you love me by sacrificing them.  I put desires in your heart so that I can delight you.  I delight to delight you."

This astounded me.  I had thought all the desires of my heart were bad, and my heart deceitfully wicked.  But the God who created us very good created us with a delight in good things, both tangible and intangible.  Just like I love to hear my children giggle as I tickle them, God loves to delight us.  He created us with tickle spots!

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Every great love story has an obstacle which must be overcome.  In my relationship with God, the obstacle has been my sense of obligation and my sense of who I was.  I was the prodigal son, who came home to proclaim myself no longer fit to be a son, but only fit to be a slave.  I accepted the party of welcome, then set about trying to make up for my betrayal of my Father by my servitude.  I became a slave, endeavoring to please my Father.

I was convinced I ought to love God, and yet I thought I was by nature incapable of doing what I ought.  I knew that love acts in certain ways, so I thought I must make myself act in those ways.  I did not understand that love for God would grow naturally.  I did not understand that I was fertile soil in which God had planted His seed of love.  Everything the seed needed to grow was in place.  The seed just required time.

Instead, I thought I was only fit to be a slave.  I held as my mantra the verse, "There is none good, no not one."  When God tried to assure me of His love and to claim me as His Daughter, I basically waved that verse at Him and refused to believe Him.

One day, God told me to go look up that verse.  I went to the computer, opened BibleWorks, and hunted for the verse.  It wasn't in any single translation.  Instead, I found "There is none that doeth good, no not one."  (I am still trying to figure out how I, and my sisters, memorized the verse incorrectly.  Part of me wonders whether God just recently fixed a translation error in all translations, both electronic and printed, by His miraculous power.)

Sometimes, I hear a thought in distinct words, and I know it is God speaking.  Other times, when I am afraid to listen to God because what He is saying is too scarily freeing, too different from everything I have believed, God starts nagging at my thoughts with something that won't go away.  This was one of the times when I was afraid to believe God.  It seemed to good to be true.

The thought that nagged at me is this.  A child gets her father's name as her family name.  The Father's name is my name.  My name is Daughter I Am.  My name is not I Do.  At creation, God declared me very good, and that is who I Am.  Though I may do things that are not good, my name is not I Do, so my essence is unchanged.  I am who I am because I am my Father's Daughter, and He made me very good.

When the rich young ruler came and knelt before Jesus, he called Jesus "good teacher."  Jesus asked him, "Why do you call me good?  No one is good except God alone."  This passage always bothered me.  Isn't Jesus good?  Didn't the ruler get it right here?  Why is Jesus challenging him?  Was Jesus challenging him to recognize Jesus as God?  Lately, I've begun to wonder.  What if Jesus was also challenging him to consider the tightly held belief that only God is good and man is bad?  What if Jesus was challenging him to consider Genesis 1:31, in which God saw all that He had made and declared it very good?

I think God is asking me whether my family name is I Am or I Do.  He is asking me to choose.  I can choose to keep the name given me by the Father of Lies, or I can accept the name bequeathed to me by my true Father.  It seems too scarily beautiful to believe, but my heart longs to believe.

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One night in April, four years ago, I stood under a cold, windy Nebraska sky and looked up at the stars.  My husband and I were on furlough from a fairly successful two year term in Kenya.  We were missionaries in residence at Nebraska Christian College.  Our ministry there was also fairly successful.  My husband and I were fasting and praying twice a week.  We had a prayer ministry with the NCC students.  We were committed to "Here I am, God, send me."

That night, I had stood under the stars for over an hour, talking and praying with a student.  It was one of the days when I had been fasting.  Usually, I would have already broken fast, but I was still at work.  After the student left, I stayed outside looking up at the stars, and I asked God, "May I go in and eat some ice cream, or is there more work that you would like me to do?"

I don't know my exact words.  All I know is that I wanted to eat something nice, but I had a question in my heart, "What if God has more He wishes I were willing to do?  I have been working hard, but there is so much more to be done.  If I rest now, will God be disappointed?  Will some task be left undone?  Will God's plans be thwarted all because I stopped and rested?"

As I stood looking up at the beauty of the stars, God answered, "You think I am a hard man who reaps where I didn't sow.  In other words, you think I will demand of you what I haven't already worked in you."  The answer seemed rather odd, almost ill-fitting, but I understood that I was free to go break my fast and enjoy some ice cream, so I did.

At the time, I understood that God was saying, "I will work willingness in you before I call you to do something."  I had already been pondering the verse, "For it is He who works in you to will and to do, according to His good pleasure."  But my questions were still deeply rooted.  "What if God is trying to make me be willing, but I'm too bad?  Is He disappointed in me?  Is He just being patient because He has to be?  Is He sighing and taking a deep breath while restraining His fury?  When will He finally lose patience with me?"

These questions have caused me to ponder God's answer, trying to understand what it means.  But I couldn't find an answer to my questions.  Recently, I started looking at the answer in both its context in the moment I asked and in its Biblical story.  In the Biblical story, a servant believes his master is a hard man who reaps where he doesn't sow, so when his master entrusts him with money, the servant buries the money and doesn't use it to gain interest.  We tend to think of the money as our spiritual gifts and burying the money is our unwillingness and refusal to use the gifts for God's work.  But this didn’t fit my context.  I was using my spiritual gifts.  I was offering to do more work.  I was offering to be the servant who comes in from the fields not to rest, but to wait on the table.

So why is He saying I'm the one burying the money because I think He's a hard man who reaps where He doesn't sow?  Maybe I've been looking at the passage incorrectly.  Maybe this is instead a Mary/Martha passage.  Maybe the goal of the parable is not to get me out there, spending my money, using my gifts, doing more.  Maybe the goal of the parable is to point out that I need to sit at His feet more, rest with Him, get to know Him.  Instead of a slave, who works for Him without ceasing, and who is just breaking even on my profits, He is wanting a child who just climbs onto His lap and gets to know Him as He is.  He wants me to come to Him and let every thought of Him being a hard man be swept away by the strength of His love.  Stop doing, and start being.  "Be still, and know that I am God."  "It is God who works in me to will and to do according to His good pleasure."  What I am willing to do is what God has for me to do, and it is enough.  After all, five loaves and two fish fed five thousand.

Oh, I hope that is what He is saying, because it is beautiful!  So far, each time I have tentatively rested from work when I'm tired and can't work without a sense of burden, God has blessed the rest.  May I grow confident to rest.