Can you just stop and listen?
If I asked you how you were doing, what would you say in response? Would you say that you are "OK", or "busy" or maybe "stressed"? Or would you describe your life as "quiet", "calm" and with "plenty of time on your hands"?. I don't know about you, but I could probably count on one hand the times that I said the latter. It seems like, in this day and age, its a mark of status to state that we are busy and have no spare time. It's why self care, decent sleep or even taking time for yourself often falls to the wayside - and therefore why the media loves talking about it. The medical profession is constantly talking about this need as stress / cortisol levels, sleep deprivation and high blood pressure become more and more common. But the consequence of this is that you miss out; you don't stop and sit still.
Think about church. How many of us are active in the service - whether it is assisting with set up and pack down, leading worship or the service, watching kids or preparing food? It's part of our stage of church life, and an important way we serve God. But the challenging combination of having a small team capable of serving, combined with the additional demands of COVID, mean that a significant part of our congregation is often "on". And sometimes, the consequence of that is you end up missing out on God moments in our services - of stopping and listening.
It's the Martha in us, right? (Luke 10:38 - 42). When Jesus and his disciples came to their village, Martha and Mary offered for Jesus to stay with them, and while Martha focused on serving them, Mary "sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said" (Luke 10:39) - which based on Martha's response frustrated her to no end. Culturally, this makes sense, right? The woman's role was to serve and to host. Not to sit at the feet of a guest listening to him talk. Even today, when a guest comes over there is this cultural expectation of offering them a drink and possibly a snack. Maybe, if you are lucky, you can have a chat while preparing, or can sit down after they have been served. But if its a big party - well I know my feet are always aching from all the work I have done after everyone goes and it's a good party if I have said more than maybe 15 words to each guest. Don't get me wrong, I love doing it and I know my guests have a wonderful time, but in doing so,
What am I missing out on?
We know that when Martha expressed her frustration to Jesus about Mary's actions, he indicated that Mary was actually doing the right thing (Luke 10:42). We cannot be saved by our actions, it is through God's grace (Ephesians 2:8). Good deeds and actions don't help us grow in God if they don't combine with an awareness of him - which is crucially built up through reading the bible, prayer and meditation. While it is important to keep moving and not get stuck, doing more doesn't always mean you achieve what you want. Think about Hannah (1 Samuel 1) and Sarah (Genesis 21:2) - their wombs were closed and no amount of effort they made would have changed that - prayer and faith did.
So, lets go back to the question I raised above. Is serving an act of honoring God? Or it is just about feeding a person's need - a form of personal validation to express or obtain recognition? It's a challenging question, right? And one that may be hard to confront. But it's a necessary one if we are to make sure our focus is on God in all we do.
Ultimately, I think that serving can be an act of honoring God. After all, Jesus served - and we know that this was not about him and his sense of self worth. Jesus broke bread and served wine for the last supper (Matthew 26:17-29). But Jesus also went to the mountain to pray and connect with God (Luke 6:12). The reality is that both serving and stopping - in balance - are necessary. God calls us to demonstrate his love (John 15:12 - 13). But God also calls us to listen (Romans 10:17). I serve in the church as a way of honoring and demonstrating God's love to members of the congregation. But I also make sure that once a month neither Michael nor I are rostered on to ensure that we have the time to be present with God in church.
So, what about you? Is your default to be Martha or Mary? And if you are a Martha - what is the purpose or drive behind it? Do you need to redirect your attention towards God or find a balance between your serving and stopping? And if so, practically, how do you do this? Do you need to clear things on your calendar, or speak to your Team Leader at church regarding the frequency you are rostered on so you can stop and listen? Alternatively, do you need to step up? Can you turn to God and ask him how he wants you to serve?
In the end, God has a plan and purpose for you and it is through being present and listening to him that you will be guided in this path.
God bless and have a wonderful week.
- Written by Ashleigh Crosilla.