"Confessions of A Professional Worrier"
Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he was saying. But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to him and asked, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:38-42
Worry and distraction were core lessons in my upbringing. I have been well trained. I confess to having been a professional worrier. All the details, all the things I “should” do, all the things I wanted others to do (yes, I even worry about others!), all my expectations and hopes, and wanting to follow all the expectations and rules of others, have been constant companions in my mind while awake and working and even while dreaming. I know I am not alone. We’ve all had those dreams where nothing goes right, the worries about what others expect of us, the list of things to get done. You may have different worries or distractions, but they’re there, whispering around the edges of all our lives.
The first time I heard this scripture story of Mary and Martha, it bothered me that Jesus seemed to chastise Martha for doing all the chores and the work of hospitality, while he praised Mary for just sitting at his feet – and the sermon I heard about this story seemed to imply that worrying women were problems. I have learned a lot since then and believe that Jesus’ message was broader and aimed more at being attentive to the lessons of love and justice and compassion that Jesus taught. (I also like to imagine that he helped with the dishes and housework when he was done teaching.)
These days, we seem to have so many new issues and complexities in our lives to worry about and be distracted over. To mask or not to mask. How to witness for justice and restoration. How to assure safety – from guns and predators and scammers and disease – and how to increase hospitality, awareness, and safety in our neighborhoods and churches and communities and among our family and friends. We are so distractedly busy – preparing worship, volunteering, working, planning, holding and attending meetings, learning how to zoom and record online, and to reach new people even when we still remain isolated and disconnected. You have your own list, I’m sure.
Jesus invites us to a “better part” where we learn to listen to the still, calm, energetic, compassionate voice of love and justice and to pay attention to God’s presence even in the midst of everything else that is going on. Yes, we have much to do. Yes, there are many, many issues to be faced and handled. Yes, there is chaos and struggle and fear all around. And yet, Jesus continues to speak and teach and love. Jesus continues to be present in even the most estranged and strange times. Our “better part” is to stop a moment amid the distractions and worries, and just plain notice. Pay attention to the good and beautiful and hopeful and grace-full and blessed moments which are also continually and persistently present. Pay attention to Christ’s presence in each good and beautiful and hopeful and grace-full and blessed person who comes our way.
Right now, participate in the “one thing” which Jesus invites us into. Breathe. Listen. Focus. Pray. Sit (or stand or walk) at the feet of Jesus to hear Jesus’ message for you this moment, and this moment, and this moment – the “better part.” In the Spirit and hope of Jesus we pray. Amen