What would you do if Jesus quietly knocked on your door? Literally? Like he was your second cousin, passing through town. It’s mid-afternoon. A school day. The lawn should have been cut last week but it’s been so damp, and then there’s no time later in the day. You were due to grocery shop yesterday but had take the dog to the vet and just picked up milk and bread after school instead. You thought you’d probably have spaghetti tonight because there’s always sauce and some some pasta laying around.
And there is Jesus. He had to step over a bike to get to the front door because almost everyone comes to the back.
For the sake of this hypothetical, let’s say he wears jeans and a jacket and has a worn baseball cap on. Probably says some seed company on it. He looks like a farmer who pulled out the Sunday jeans and boots.
But he’s your savior. Your Lord. Your sweet Jesus. The one you live your whole life for.
And all you see is the mess. The clumps of dog hair in the corners. The toys that shouldn’t be in the dining room but of course they are. The dirty counters. It’s an hour until you have to pick up the kids from school, and does he really want spaghetti for supper?
This keeps you from running to him and throwing open the door. This keeps you from sitting on the porch swing, just to feel him, warm and peace and comfort, next to you. He caught you off guard. Unannounced. Unplanned. Unexpected.
My sweet child, grace is always unexpected.
We all know the Mary and Martha story. Especially women. It’s used, a lot. There are two people in this world, the Mary’s and the Martha’s, they say. Don’t get caught up in “doing”, they say. Don’t be like this woman, and while they’re talking about a Biblical figure you all look around the room and pick out the Martha’s and the Mary’s and look into your own heart and know you are a Martha and are so ashamed of it. You’re supposed to serve and juggle the balls and take care of it but you’re also supposed to sit calmly and peacefully at the feet of Jesus, like some full color Bible illustration.
But, when I read the story, found in Luke 10:38-42, something cried out to me. In the midst of Martha’s anger to have her sister just help her out for just one dang minute, Jesus saw past all that. It was more than wanting things to be taken care of for her beloved Jesus and probably more than a handful of travel-weary followers. It was more than trying to feed everyone, because they’re human and have to eat. It was more than Mary completely ignoring the preparations. It was more than having to be perfect. More than all those teachers and pastors have made it about.
“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.”
I think Mary had muddled this story. Because we, a people bent on comparison and first place and appearance, instantly compare Mary and Martha. Choose what Mary did. Don’t be a Martha. We have forgotten the words in red.
But I want to hear my gentle savior.
You are worried and upset about many things.
Oh my soul, you get lost in that worry. Those many things.
Few things are need. Indeed, only one thing is needed.
And here I am.
And I can never be taken away from you.
Health is stolen. Youth and beauty fades. Finances are insecure. Marriage is a war. Children become their own. Friends betray or slip away. Nothing in this world is certain. It is full of things to worry us and upset us.
So choose the other world.
The one we can’t see.
The one we have been adopted into by the blood of the sweet savior who rings our doorbell in jeans and a worn baseball cap. The one who is never fading, ever faithful, ever merciful.
We become lost in this world, full of beauty but also heartache. We become lost in being creatures of this earth, with families and jobs and churches and ministries and football and marching band and grocery shopping.
But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
1 Peter 2:9 -10
The moment I look past Jesus, as he comes just to be with me, and see the un-mowed lawn, I have chosen this world over my inheritance as a child of God.
The moment I become too involved in pleasing him, my burden becomes heavy, and I have not chosen the one thing. The moment I let the shame of my sin keep me from the alter, I am forgetting his promises, the one thing. As I let fear overcome, worry overtake me, I have lost sight of the one thing.
As with any Mary and Martha story, I have to add the obligatory “this doesn’t mean you get to sit around and not do anything as a Christian” disclaimer. But Mary was sitting at the feet of Jesus. Mary wasn’t “doing anything”.
I think Jesus would tell those of us who need things spelled out It’s not about what you do! Even though that strikes me as so contrary to that inner darkness that compels me to prove myself.
It’s not about what you do, it’s about what I’ve done. I finished it. I’ve finished all of it. You don’t need to do anything else to complete salvation, to complete the work I’ve done in you.
If Jesus walked into the room where you are sitting now, where would your eyes go?
Could you meet his gaze?
Would the sin and the hidden things and the shame and all that is left undone keep you from looking into his face? Would the unfinished things scattered in your life keep you from offering him a seat? Keep you from running to him? In our effort to please him, do we forget about loving him? Would the half-lie that you are not enough keep distance between you until you’ve worn yourself to exhaustion trying to prove you are enough?
Choosing the one thing is often so hard and contrary and unbelievable because it is the mystery of love and grace. Because it means we have to drop all the balls we’re juggling and plates we’re spinning. We end up giving them all to the divine Lord of heaven’s army, the one who spoke the vastness of the universe into existence. But still, it’s hard. Impossible sometimes. Sometimes we just cry out to those around us, in a prayer but in an angry desperation, “Won’t you help me?!” Get on this hamster wheel of proving ourselves with me. Get consumed by serving and pleasing and earning that love, because it feels right to be doing something.
But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much, that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved!) For he raised us from the dead along with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ Jesus. So God can point to us in all future ages as examples of the incredible wealth of his grace and kindness toward us… God saved you by his grace when you believed.
Ephesians 2:4 – 8
When Jesus calls your name, and says, “You are worried and upset about many things,” listen to him. Pause. Take a breath. Or take a month, or years, to get it worked out in your mind and heart.
Hear the love in his voice, the love for his dear child. Hear the pain as his heart breaks for you. As he sees your desperation, your anxiety, your full hands and life and schedule. Let him take your weary burden. Meet his gaze. Run to him, fall into his open arms.
Choose the one thing.