Once when surf kayaking at the beach with my husband, my boat turned parallel with the shoreline as I sped towards the sand on the crest of a wave. Not a desirable situation! Even though it was a very small wave, due to being in shallow water and not having as much control, the force of the wave immediately tumbled my boat and pinned me underneath. Water rushed over me with a strength I could not have imagined. Never had I possessed such an awareness of the power of the ocean as I received in that moment when I knew my only option was to hold my breath and wait out the wave.
When I think of power, it’s images like that one that fill my imagination.
Thundering oceans, brilliant lightning, rushing hurricane wind. These easily recognizable examples of raw power are full of movement and noise, and if you’ve ever been at the mercy of one, you know firsthand that their force is beyond anything man can conjure or contain.
This week, God reminded me of another kind of power.
The power of stillness.
To the casual observer, it looks a lot like – well, nothing. Like total unproductivity.
Can I be honest with you? I’ve never liked the Bible story of Mary and Martha too well. I so want to be Mary, but more often, I find myself playing the role of the chastised Martha.
Now, Martha gets a bad rap, but she started out well. Luke 11:38 tells us that she opened her home to Jesus. What a wonderful thing to be remembered for! I love that about her – she saw Jesus, valued Him, and welcomed Him into her home.
So far, so good. A great start to a wonderful friendship, yes?
But somewhere between verse 38 and verse 39, something happens to Martha.
She doesn’t start using drugs, or murder her sister, or change her mind and decide to throw in her lot with the Pharisees.
The Bible says she was “distracted”.She was so busy trying to serve Jesus, that she missed the power of simply being with Jesus. Click To Tweet
Mary, on the other hand, was doing only two things. Mary was sitting, and Mary was listening.
“Be still, and know that I am God” (Ps. 46:10, NIV)
If Jesus came to my house, I honestly don’t know what I would do. Would I rush around fluffing pillows, straightening the living room, telling the kids to change clothes and for Heaven’s sake to brush their hair, and then go try to figure out what in the WORLD to make for dinner?? Maybe I would.
Maybe I would think “as soon as I have these things taken care of, I will sit down and enjoy being with Jesus”.
Maybe that’s what Martha herself was thinking. After all, people have to eat, don’t they?
“This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel says: ‘In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength, but you would have none of it’.” (Isaiah 30:15, NIV)
Mary’s choice was the pathway to power that fuels effective Kingdom living. There is strength in stillness. There is learning in listening. And there is such beauty in simply being with the One who wants to be with us more than we can imagine.
The two choices lie before us, as relevant today as they were the day Martha bustled about her home.
We can allow ourselves to be distracted by all the things that clamor for our attention, or we can choose to quiet ourselves, sit, and listen. Even when what is distracting us FROM Jesus are the things we feel we are doing FOR Jesus.
We need His presence more than He needs our efforts. Click To Tweet
When we choose to sit and listen, powerful things happen inside us. Our hearts are recalibrated to His and we receive correction and direction. As we absorb His peace and presence, we receive and infusion of grace for our day.
Oh, how I need His power for effective living. I am completely insufficient in and of myself.
I want to have the power of a Mary heart in a Martha world because I need His life in me doing what I cannot accomplish on my own. I cannot love like Jesus without being with Jesus.
“Lord, forgive me for many times becoming so distracted by chores or life or even serving You that I forget to just sit in Your presence, where there is fullness of joy. I need Your presence today, and I will need it again tomorrow, and every day after that. Help me discipline myself to shut out the many faces of distraction and to focus instead on the beautiful face of Jesus. Teach me to sit and listen. Open my eyes to see when I am running around in my own strength, and give me the grace to run back to You instead.”
What about you? What part of the story of Mary and Martha can you best relate to? Maybe your answer has changed over time and you find yourself in a different season now. I’d love to hear your thoughts and how God has used the story of these sisters in your life!
With faith, hope, and love,