Call me Martha

Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only one thing is necessary. – Jesus Christ

I was a lazy child. I didn’t push myself to excel. I didn’t concoct grand schemes. I don’t know exactly when the shift happened. Part of it had to do with my transition from an Art Major to a Theater Major (you can read about that here), but it wasn’t all of it. At some point, for some reason, slowly happening over a long period of time, I decided that I was going to be superwoman, that my worth and identity was tied to my accomplishments.

My rush to become successful has becoming increasingly frantic over the last two years. There has been an enormous pressure to prove myself. Except for the period of depression that followed my hand injury and the death of my dear friend, I have pushed myself in theater, writing, and art, striving to make a name for myself. Sometimes I throw being a perfect housewife and getting in shape in the mix as well.

Trying to find my identity in my work, my looks, my art has been exhausting. It’s isolated me from people, because I am always trying to get work done. When our Pastor preached a sermon about how the love of money can crowd out God, I knew my obsession for success was doing that very thing.  My desire to accumulate achievements (with hopefully some money along the way) has allowed good things to push out the necessary thing.

I’m not sure what the balance looks like. I believe that God has called me to work in theatre, to pursue writing, to create art, but not at the expense of my relationship with Him and others. The jobs He has given me can tempt me to push off devotions, prayer time, service, listening to my husband (really listening), visiting with friends, but theatre, art, writing, housework, and even exercise are often ways that I can experience God and minister to my community.

So, it’s a struggle. It’s a process. I’m afraid it might be a long one. If only I knew what it was supposed to look like! (That’s the “Superwoman-who-gets-everything-perfect” talking.) Some days are better than others. In my ideal world, my day always follows my perfectly arranged schedule with no deviations! In reality, I almost always have shifts. Those shifts are incredibly difficult for me to respond graciously too. Right now, progress looks like me admitting “I’m irritated because things aren’t going my way”. I think there are some important steps afterwards like no longer being irritated, but I’m still struggling with that one.

Not too long ago, our Pastor preached a sermon about the passage when Mary (Martha’s sister) anoints Jesus, and He compared the three different ways that Mary, Martha and Lazarus (Martha’s brother) worshiped. It was one of the few sermons I’ve heard that talked about the growth that we see in Martha in the few passages she’s a part of. That sermon gave me hope that I too will grow. Like Martha, I hope to always be busy serving Jesus, but without the control complex and the superwoman complex and the must-go-according-to-plan complex.

How about you? Is overworking something you struggle with? Are you tempted to put your identity in your achievements? What does resting in Jesus while actively serving Him look like for you? I’d love to read about it in the comments.

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3 thoughts on “Call me Martha

  1. Thanks for posting, Sharon. I love how you put it: “responding graciously” to shifts in our plans. I struggle with that when the kids aren’t doing exactly what I want, when I want, especially in this newborn (lack of) sleep stage. I’m trying to sit at Jesus’ feet through prayer in those moments.

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  2. I struggle with finding the balance, too, especially in the area of creative ambition. I have been painting a lot more lately — for several years I didn’t even feel much of a desire to create art, overwhelmed as I was with pregnancy and mothering babies. Now that my youngest is almost 3, I am really eager to get back into painting/creating. But almost-3 is still young, and exhausting, and sometimes (too often) I foolishly wish these little years away, hoping for the boys to grow up more quickly so I can do more of what _I_ want. Partly I do think this is an identity thing. It is hard for me to feel like a “success” at mothering for a million reasons, and sometimes it feels very nice to create something concrete. I’m trying to take the times when my husband or my mom watch the kids and say, “Go, paint!” as a gift to me, and thank both them and the Giver. And also praying that Jesus will change my heart to let go of my own desires willingly if that is what’s needed, to be thankful even if the gift He is giving is another leaky diaper or newly-folded laundry strewn all over the living room or week spent getting nothing much at all done because we are all sick. I keep being confronted by the paradoxical, upside-down nature of His kingdom — whoever wants to gain his own life must be willing to lay it down. And I need to hear again how He laid down His life for me, so that when I screw it all up, again — I am loved and forgiven.

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