It was a Christmas I’d like to forget. With five children at home, I should have planned a Pinterest-perfect experience – complete with decorations, cookies and crafts. But the stress of a crazy year had brought me to end of my strength at the end of it all.
The tree got put up, but no ornaments. It only had lights because it was pre-lit. That’s how bad it was.
Every day I felt like a failure. No matter how hard I worked, I couldn’t get ahead. When that happens, I usually switch into go-mode. Checking items off my to-do list can easily supersede my desire for the quieter priorities of life, like time cuddled with a little one, or time with God.
How can I possibly sit when there’s so much to do? That mindset has made me miss some of the most precious moments in life. And it’s a way of thinking I battle daily.
Somehow in the midst of that overwhelmed Christmas, God reminded me of the story of Mary and Martha in the Bible.
Luke 10 records a day when Jesus came to visit at Martha’s house. It’s a very short story, but we know that Martha fussed at Jesus because her sister wasn’t working hard enough. Rather than helping Martha fix the food, Mary was sitting listening to Jesus.
Jesus loved both Mary and Martha. But in that moment, as the story records, Jesus was more delighted with Mary’s heart to be with Him, than Martha’s heart to serve Him.
I can be a fusser too. Too busy with the details, too worried about planning for what’s next, too preoccupied with my to-do list. Even worried about other people’s to-do lists.
It’s not that I don’t love Jesus. I do. But so did Martha. She dearly loved Jesus. And I’m sure she loved having Him as a houseguest, where she could hear Him talk as she went about her daily tasks. Maybe she asked Him questions, and served Him lunch.
But she didn’t stop to sit at His feet. She didn’t pause her preparation to give Him wholehearted attention. She didn’t embrace the gift of His presence.
Jesus so gently and lovingly corrected Martha saying:
“‘Martha, Martha,’ the Lord answered, ‘you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.’” (Luke 10:41-42, NIV)
Jesus loved Martha’s heart of service, but He just wanted her to stop what she was doing and prioritize spending time with Him.
I wonder if Martha changed her habits. Did she check her heart and consider where Jesus fit? Did she review her priorities and put Jesus before cleaning up?
We don’t know the answer. The only thing we can know is what we decide to do with this story.
It’s so compelling to jump into our days; whether it’s fixing breakfast for children or leading a meeting at work — without ever pausing to sit at Jesus’ feet. It’s so much easier to whisper a prayer while driving carpool or listen to the Christian radio station and consider that time with God.
I remember the day that December I decided to follow Mary’s example and sit in the middle of my mess to spend time with Jesus.
Normally, I feel as if everything has to be clean before I can "treat" myself to some down time. I believe I have to have the dishes clean, counters cleared, urgent emails addressed, laundry going. Normally, by the time I've done all that, something else has demanded my attention, and my time with Jesus is neglected - much like what happened to Martha.
But not that day. That day I made a cup of coffee and sat at the kitchen table and looked at my mess. It was big. There were papers, dishes, clothes and blankets strewn over every surface. The floor was filthy, and the list went on. I had to fight my instinct to get up.
Closing my eyes, I pictured Jesus sitting across the table from me. Sighing deeply, I felt the stress melt away, as my heart filled with peace. It was pure pleasure ... and the mess amazingly faded from my view. The presence of Jesus brought me more joy and satisfaction than checking 100 things from my list.
This Christmas, whether you've gotten your house decorated or not, whether you've mailed out cards or not ... Jesus has come to your house for a visit. He longs for us to pause our preparations and sit with Him. What a gift.
Glynnis Whitwer is on staff with Proverbs 31 Ministries as the Executive Director of Communications. She is one of the writers of Encouragement for Today. She is the author and co-author of 9 books, including her latest Taming the To-Do List: How to Choose Your Best Work Every Day. Glynnis, her husband Tod, have five young-adult children and live in Glendale, Arizona. She blogs at www.GlynnisWhitwer.com.