My husband, Zack, not-so-affectionately calls it “The Do Monster” — That pervasive, nagging feeling that we should always be doing more for God. Whether it’s never missing a Sunday service, or volunteering every weekend, or leading that home group, or living under constant pressure to study-more-pray-more-fast-more-repeat, it doesn’t take long before the “shoulds” in our lives overwhelm us into burnout and stagnation.
Toward the end of 2021, Zack and I reached the pinnacle of our wrestling over this. At the time, we ran a tiny, unofficial home-based community service called The Acts Kitchen that cooked and delivered free homemade meals to those in need. We truly loved what we did… But in our drive to never “waste” a moment, it regularly left us exhausted and overwhelmed, especially when paired with spending our Saturday mornings volunteering with our favorite local homeless ministry, and serving as greeters and prep team trainers at both our Saturday night and Sunday morning church services… All while managing daily life with chronic lung illness. My breakdown came suddenly and swiftly one evening during a routine trip to Wal Mart for necessities, right in the middle of the boys’ clothing section. And in response, Zack re-routed our cart and myself off to a quiet side aisle, cocooned me in his arms, and said gently, but firmly, “It’s time to take a break.”
For the first time in over five years, I didn’t argue.
We stepped back in phases. First, from the homeless ministry downtown. Next, from serving every weekend at church, and eventually, organized service altogether. And last, our beloved Acts Kitchen that we’d created from the ground up in the midst of the COVID-19 outbreak. At first, it was tangibly relieving to have the freedom to breathe, worship, and discover what it meant to pick up our crosses and follow Jesus daily on our own terms. But it wasn’t long before we realized just how much of our confidence had been tied to the boxes we checked off at the end of any given day. Not having that perpetual compulsion to do do do more should have been liberating… But instead, because it was all we’d ever known, it felt like emotional, spiritual, and even identity upheaval.
Until late one night, well into our discomfort, when what I considered to be a fairly profound series of questions dawned on me:
“If Ephesians 2:9–10 tells us,
‘For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them…’
Then might it be safe to say there are times when He doesn’t have anything for us to do?
Might it be safe to say there are times when He intentionally clears space, sometimes even whole seasons for us, so that we may rest?
Might it be safe to say that it’s our own insecurities that pile up that free time with things we think will please Him?
And might it be safe to say that the to-do lists we create, with every intention of feeling closer to Him by earning His approval, become the very things that keep us too busy and too scattered to just be His?”
Enter: Two sisters.
An impromptu dinner party is being thrown in the small town of Bethany by three of Jesus’ closest friends, Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. The King of kings and the Lord of lords is the guest of honor, and Martha wants everything to be perfect for Him. (Don’t we all?) But as she busies herself making preparations, we get a glimpse in Luke 10 of the offense burning within her heart:
“A woman named Martha welcomed 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 up to Him and said, ‘Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Then tell her to help me.’”
And how does Jesus respond?
“Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”
Please don’t hear what I’m not saying — Living in service to our Savior is not wrong. Jesus wasn’t rebuking Martha’s service as wicked. Nor was He scolding her for her gracious and hospitable desire to open her home to Him. He was, however, reframing her perspective on priority. And He was gently reminding her that as long as her service stemmed from the wrong heart posture, it was all for nothing anyway.
It is only at the feet of Jesus, humbled and captivated by all He is, that we’re able to experience the overwhelming adoration and awe that drove the disciples to lay down their lives for Him and for their fellow man. We can not muster that up on our own, and what we consider to be good deeds will never be able to produce it. His love is our source. His rest is our refuge and our refuel. And one thing is always for certain — Our Martha serving must flow from our Mary devotion. Never the other way around.
Sometimes, a half-hour recharge in the morning is sufficient. Others, it may take days, even weeks. In my own walk, regardless of the season, I have come to envision my heart as a satellite dish that can deliberately make the choice to pause and “ping” for Him at any time, even in my busiest of moments. And when I find Him, I find I no longer have to strive for His rest and His refreshment. It comes as naturally as breath.
It’s not our job to save the world. Only to shine Him into it. And we can’t do that, in spirit and in truth, if we don’t take the time to just be with Him first.
“Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”
He always does the heavy lifting.
So let us rest in our portions, and our portions alone, today ♥