I loaned my daughter my iPhone for her field trip today, reluctantly I’ll admit, but it turned out to be a great gift to myself. It is beautiful on this Friday with just the slightest hint of autumn in the air.
I didn’t realize until now how my iPhone creates busyness in my life. Whenever I’m stopped at a traffic light, for instance, I quickly check for text messages and email, or maybe steal a peek at Facebook, as if anything urgent is happening there. If I go out for a run or work around the house I listen to a podcast just to occupy my mind.
But today as I drive to and from school my mind is free to wander; I find my friends and their needs coming to mind, and I take a moment to lift them up in prayer.
Then you will call on me and come and pray to me and I will listen to you. Jeremiah 29:12
I am lingering with my thoughts and taking in the natural beauty of the North Carolina sky, not that I didn’t notice it before, but today I absorb it undistracted.
The earth is full of the loving kindness of the LORD. Psalm 33:5
And my house is so quiet. Removing my phone amplifies and sanctifies the silence. Gone is the subconscious anticipation of intrusion. Today I am sitting in and relishing my solitude.
It is a guilty pleasure, as I have conditioned myself to believe that purpose comes from doing. Today I practiced being, and I found peace.
Only One Thing is Necessary
Mary was a woman who was content to just be. From the time she was a little girl she would sit contentedly in the meadows near her home, feeling the sun’s warmth, breathing in the fragrance of the her favorite flowers, pretty Carmelites, and marveling at the high peaks of the Mount of Olives. She and her sister spent many days there. While Mary sat, her sister gathered flowers and wove wreaths with an urgency that suggested they might all disappear without warning.
Even as adults Mary dallied, while Martha bustled. Martha was always focused on anticipating, preparing and creating opportunities. Mary and her brother had grown up relying on those qualities in their older sister to provide for their needs.
Today her sister was up and out the door, determined that they would be the ones to host the celebrated, if controversial, young rabbi at their home for dinner. Mary trusted her stalwart sister would succeed in her mission. As she confidently awaited her return she looked around at their simple home. Thanks to Martha’s scrupulous eye and inexhaustible energy Mary’s favorite Carmelites peeked over the window, their blankets each featured intricate designs on fabric she had woven with needlework she had stitched. The table was already set, anticipating their dinner guest. And the aroma of lamb seasoned with cardamom wafted gently through the air. Everything was perfect.
The teacher arrived as Mary knew he would. His name was Jesus, and she was captivated from the moment she laid eyes on him. He invited her to remain with her brother, Lazarus, and the other men who had traveled with him. She took the lowest position in the room, at his feet, desperate to stay, yet not wanting to draw attention to her presence.
She could not break her gaze as she listened to him speak of Elohim as “Father.” He knew the scriptures better than any rabbi she had ever met, and yet his teachings were unlike anything she had heard before. He made it all seem so simple and clear, so connected and so essential.
He told them of a lawyer he had met just the other day who, like so many intellectuals, wanted to expose Jesus as a fraud. He asked him a loaded question: “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”
And Jesus then shared with the group the parable he had told the man of the Good Samaritan. Mary was rapt by the story of mercy and love transcending all earthly bounds of intellect and status, race and wealth. It was radical to her ears even as it rang true in her heart. As she pondered these ideas her sister’s voice, shrill and anxious, snapped her from her reverie:
“Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone? Then tell her to help me.”
Mary felt the heat rush to her face. How thoughtless she had been, and now she would be embarrassed in front of this teacher whom she already adored. She started to get up, but Jesus’ reply stopped her:
Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.
She eased back down at the rabbi’s feet and looked to her beloved sister for a response. She feared hurting her even more than she feared being shamed for not helping. The hostility was gone from Martha’s eyes; in its place was understanding, tinged with regret. Mary’s heart ached for her sister; she knew that were it not for Martha none of them would have a meal to look forward to this day.
But she also knew that even if all the preparations were complete Martha didn’t have it in her to sit idly and do nothing. Mary had seen how often Martha missed out on simple joys in each day because her attention was consumed by the tasks at-hand.
Some time later their brother, Lazarus, became ill. Mary and Martha were desperate to find Jesus; they knew if anyone could save him, he could. And they both were heartbroken when Jesus was delayed in coming, and Lazarus died. When he finally did arrive Mary left the group of mourners surrounding her and ran once again to the feet of her Lord.
…when Mary came where Jesus was, she saw Him, and fell at His feet, saying to Him, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.” (John 11:32)
And one final time, in Jesus’ time of need, Mary would be drawn again to her knees at his feet:
Mary then took a pound of very costly perfume of pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped His feet with her hair; and the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. John 12:3
And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.