Details are not my strength. Consequently, all of the things I must care for with my children can overwhelm me--even this month, helping my children figure out taxes, registering for dance classes, sending photos online to a competition, co-op classes, bills, medical issues, mail, email, clothes, dishes, the conferences at hand and on and on. Yet it seems our lives are covered over with myriad things to worry about.
Though I like to think of myself as a Mary, listening to Jesus, pondering scripture, I know that much of my life so commiserates with Martha. Always I awaken with "things to do" on my mind. But I was looking through one of my older books and was re-convicted by what I had written. (For me it is like looking at an old journal. I relive and relearn what I have previously thought and known!) Here is what I read:
I think as mothers and fathers, it is so easy to get distracted by the details of our lives. We have so much to do! We must feed our children well and take care of their health. We must oversee their education and their training to make sure they will be able to take care of themselves and live in a civilized society. We train them in righteousness so they may understand how God wants them to live. We try to relate to them in mature ways and help them learn to have healthy relationships.
Yet so often, I think, we get lost in these multitudinous tasks that rule our lives, and we lose sight of the underlying purpose behind all these tasks, which is to prepare our children to go into the world and make disciples for our Lord.
Jesus promised that he would be with us. He also promised that he will come back. It is to him that we will have to give an account of how faithfully we sought to pass on his message and his commission to our children. Giving our children the gift of inspiration -- helping them understand their spiritual purpose, which is to glorify God and to make him known -- is one of the most crucial tasks of Christian parenting. The Ministry of Motherhood p. 66
Years back, a book written by Rick Warren rocked the Christian world. The title alone attracted attention: The Purpose-Driven Life. In the midst of a crazy world where we can race from one activity to the next, this book challenged us to slow down and think about Christ's ultimate purpose for our lives.
As Christian parents, we have an incredible purpose. We are the stewards of righteousness and the truth of Christ's kingdom mandate in every generation--to preserve it, to pass it on. We are also stewards to make the reality of God known in every aspect of our lives and to pass on the calling of Christ to them--to shape them to serve Him and His kingdom in their generation.
We are responsible to put before them patterns of discipleship, loving attitudes, the example of true forgiveness, cultivate in them a godly heritage ~ all the things Jesus did with His disciples. We also have the meals to prepare, the clothes to wash, and the everyday tasks that seem like they have only short-term effects. But they don't.
Martha versus Mary
Sweet Martha is one of my favorite examples of womanhood in Scripture. Who isn't convicted by her story? She loved her Lord and Savior with all her heart. She was detail oriented (perhaps off the charts!) and spoke her mind. Luke 10:38-42 shows us her real problem was that she could be distracted by the details of her life. She had a good heart. She wanted to make Jesus feel welcome. She deeply loved him. But, she was a woman with a plan and you'd dare not get in her way!
"Now as they were traveling along, He (Jesus) entered a certain village; and a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her home. And she had a sister called Mary, who moreover was listening to the Lord's word, seated at His feet. That's me a lot. I start out well, but.......But Martha was distracted with all her preparations; and she came up to Him, and said, "Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone? Then tell her to help me." But the Lord answered and said to her, "Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only a few things are necessary, really only one, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her." (emphasis mine)
How did Martha greet Jesus? She welcomed Him. Scripture doesn't say, "And Martha, who was surprised by Jesus' presence at her door ..." When someone comes to our home, we greet them with hugs and a warm smile. We let them know we are glad to see them! Martha was excited and happy to see her close friend and Lord, Jesus. Her house was his favorite or most often visited place.
But ... after greeting Jesus, where did Martha's focus shift ?
Details! She had things to do. Dinner didn't just appear on the table! Who did she complain to when Mary wasn't helping her? Who do you complain to when the details of your life aren't coming together as you'd planned?
Martha shifted her focus from Jesus to tasks. When you feel "pulled" to shift your focus from people to details, from your sweet children who are always looking for your love and affirmation, how do you respond? Martha gives me great hope that when I'm flailing in the midst of laundry, dishes, finances, and everything else that happens in our home, I can stop and ask the Lord to give me a Mary heart. I can take time to slow down my frantic pace, and focus on Him and what He wants me to do. I'm to share Him with my children.
One way I am learning to slow down and focus is to look at my children, in their eyes, and focus on what their heart is saying--a gentle touch, tossle of hair, hand squeeze--"I know exactly what you mean!" or "I understand, honey." A personal sign that I am engaged and that they are important.
Sometimes, though, it might be taking time to sit down for a few minutes, sharing how God has been faithful to provide for our family or how He encouraged me in the midst of our lives. It might be sitting down and reading a passage of Scripture or telling them the highlights of my morning quiet time. It might be stopping to pray for a loved one or friend. But God's presence in the minutes of my life need to be a part of the minutes of my time with my children, so they can see His reality and hear His voice all the day.
Now, where the rubber meets the road!
Have you had your child convict you of being on the computer too much? or the phone? I have.
Have you intentionally made time to stop what you're doing so you could enjoy a gorgeous sunset with your son who wanted to share his special spot with just you? Did the dishes get washed at that moment? No, but something of eternal value occurred: your son knew your love for him. You got to ooh and aah together over God's majesty. That's worship! Building relationships with your children gives you entrance into their hearts. You have the honor of speaking into their lives, sharing Christ with them.
What distracts you from focusing on your children? Is there anything you can do to change this?
Here's an activity that can help you think through the Martha/Mary tension we feel as moms. Create a Martha and Mary list. Make two columns: one of things to do (details), one of relationships to build (people, especially those in your sweet family). Pray for wisdom in how to use your time so that the important items and relationships in each column get the proper amount of attention.
May the Lord bless you as you balance your priorities with His help! Off to take care of my details--and love my family in the midst.