“Now as they went on their way, he entered a village; and a woman named Martha received him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving; and she went to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things; one thing is needful. Mary has chosen the good portion, which shall not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:38-42
Can you hear the tone of our Lord’s voice in the end of the Mary and Martha story? “Martha, Martha…”
Sometimes I like to think of Christ’s words to Martha having the same ring as if He were to have said—with unbounded loving kindness and concern carefully dripping from each word—“Martha, Martha, oh how I love you, even when you’ve lost your mind…”
Last weekend I had so much to get finished before the beginning of the week. My list of to-dos kept growing, and highlighting the important events quickly proved fruitless when I found all of the items on my list highlighted, underlined, and circled. I had so much to do.
Well, I didn’t get almost anything done that weekend. Instead, I watched the time tick away as I reclined in bed with a horrible sickness—something extremely unusual for me. I never get sick, which has always been such a blessing, because “I always have so much to do.” When the antibiotics kicked in, I sat down to finally get to that daunting to-do list, and the hard drive on my computer crashed. Knowing then that the best thing for me to do was to sit at the Lord’s feet and listen to Him, I instead went into panic-mode…and lost my mind (this option not recommended).
Moments like those, when everything seemingly important—time, technology, health, etc.—comes crashing down around you (sometimes literally), sitting at the Lord’s feet and listening to his teaching is the only and best place to be. Because you know what He wants to tell you (as I finally stopped to listen that day)? “Katie, Katie, you are anxious and troubled about many things; one thing is needful.”
How often do we—myself obviously included—place everything on our to-do list above time with Christ. Prayer seems to always get shafted from the priorities…and it’s the one thing needful! My roommate and I have started a new practice. When one of us begins to get stressed about something apparently important, but which truly has little intrinsic value apart from its relation to God and our spiritual lives, we ask the other, “Is this a salvation issue?” In other words, “If you are fearful or stressing about something that doesn’t impact your relationship with God or your journey to heaven to be with Him for all eternity, you are wasting your time and energy, my friend.” Only one thing is needful.
Pope St. Gregory once said, “Be not anxious about what you have, but about what you are.” I like to add, “Be not anxious about what you have or what you do, but about what you are.” Are you a true disciple of Christ? Are you listening to Him while He is speaking to you (which, by the way, is ALL THE TIME!)? Active receptivity—listening to the teacher—is a foundational priority for true discipleship. And anxiety squashes active receptivity like a dirty cockroach, when it needs to be put on display and treasured, like a pearl of great price.
I took a class on the Gospels a few weeks ago, and we discussed how Jesus often uses someone’s name repeatedly as a sign of loving reproach: Simon, Simon…Jerusalem, Jerusalem…Saul, Saul. Sometimes we have good intentions, like these characters in the Gospels, when we are anxious about all of those other things that must get done. But Jesus calls us out on our intentions so He can give us a better one: His. When you start to feel overwhelmed by all of the temporal things you feel you need to get done now, without compromise and accompanied by anxiety, hear Christ repeating your own name in that loving reproach, “Katie, Katie…,” and allow it to be your big red stoplight, bringing you to a halt and causing you to considering changing direction.
Be anxious about one thing: God’s will. When that’s on the top of your to-do list, everything else will fall in order. You’ll see the immense joy—and above all, peace—that comes from sitting at the feet of Christ and listening to Him speak to your heart. Then you will have chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from you.