Ever heard the acronym WYSIWYG? It was my life's mantra before it ever became an acronym or buzzword in the social media/tech world. When I needed to justify my actions, responses, or outbursts it was second-nature for me to say, "what you see is what you get." In other words, I fully believed that I was born with all of these quirks and negative traits that I demonstrated on the regular. I approached life with the understanding that I was loud, strong-willed, abrasive and would probably be misunderstood before the day was over. I hated it. But I felt powerless to change. Afterall, I was born this way.
Once the ungodly belief of "I'm only loved if I make the right choices and do life perfectly" settled into my heart and I agreed with it by living my life based on it, it was easy for the little events of life to reinforce that belief. When I made a right choice (ie: everyone agreed with my decision), they would give me affirmation in said decision and I felt loved.
Make the right choice + receive affirmation for it=feeling loved and accepted.
That was my life's equation. It was such a vicious cycle. One direct result of living my life through that equation: I was officially in performance mode.
I started living my life - subconsciously at first - by performing -- performing for your attention, your affirmation, your love, your friendship. If I wasn't first, best, most admired, most needed, then I felt like a failure and I was very afraid I would be left all alone in this world.
I guess a biblical example of me would be Martha. I'm talking about Martha as in Martha and Mary - friends of Jesus.
As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, ‘Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help.’ ‘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 (Luke 10:39-42 NIV,emphasis mine).
I know what you’re thinking. It’s probably the same thing I think as well. "Poor Martha." Every time we hear a sermon on this passage, Martha gets the bad rap, doesn’t she? She was stuck in a way of life that seemed right to her. That life was all she knew. Doing. Staying out of the way. Can you blame her? It was the culture. It was ingrained in her from birth.
Yet here was Jesus, in the flesh, in her house nonetheless, calling her to something new, something different. But she didn’t get it. She couldn’t understand why He wasn’t telling Mary to get up and help her. Martha was serving the Lord the only way she knew how. There is nothing wrong with that in and of itself. Jesus, however, was trying to set her free from the mentality of servanthood, of being in the kitchen, of taking the leftovers, of being seen and not heard, of all work and no rest.
Jesus was offering her a better way.
I think it’s interesting to note that He didn’t say, “Martha, you’re doing it all wrong. Mary is doing it all right. So do it her way.” Instead, He simply said that Mary had chosen what was better and He would never take that away from her. In the Mary Hess translation I think Jesus was saying this to Martha, “Dear Martha, stop for a minute. Just come over here and rest with me. It’s alright. All of that “doing” can wait. I just want to spend time with you, like I am with Mary. So, let those dishes go. Put away your apron and come on over here. Please.”
I’m sure she was frustrated. I’m sure she was confused, maybe even a bit angry (I know I would have been furious!). How could Jesus say that?! How could He not appreciate what Martha was doing for Him? Aren’t we supposed to be about our Father’s business? Isn’t it normal and natural for us to work for Jesus? That’s what Martha did that day. She made sure everything was as it should be for the Master. She loved Him. She adored Him. She served Him well.
But do you know the real issue here? She didn’t really know Him. At least not at that moment. I think Martha knew Jesus the only way she understood - as her Master. I think Jesus was trying to tell her that He wanted to be her friend, too.
I would propose to you that this is the real issue in all of our lives. It definitely was the issue in mine. You see, if we really know Him ("know" meaning having an intimate relationship with Him), we won't perform for His affection, attention, or affirmation any more.
As a recovering performance-oriented perfectionist, I can imagine the offense taken at Jesus’ words. Pride in one’s accomplishments, one’s level of competence, one’s ability to get the job done quickly and finish it well, is at the base of everything a Martha does in life. Like I stated earlier, I get Martha. My life was rooted in pride. I wanted to be the best, be first, be amazing, be needed, be indispensable. So for years I worked, schemed, performed, perfected and imposed myself into situations and other’s lives just so I could be accepted, loved and needed. I needed it. My life's equation didn't work without it.
But in the summer of 2005, Jesus started calling me from that Martha way of life to one that was rooted and grounded in an intimate relationship with Him—not based on my works, my performance, or my rung on the ladder of success -- yes, even in the church world. He was calling me into a life where my true identity lies in the simple fact that I am His daughter. Everything else is just what I get to do.
How did He do that? He allowed my path to intersect with people who were in intimate relationship with Him. He sent godly men and women into my life to speak Truth to me via prophetic words, encouragement, correction, prayer, and counseling. I'll be sharing more of that in future posts because it's a wild, crazy story that radically changed my life.
I know He wants to change yours too.
martha + mary = balance
working with (not for) Him + spending time with Him = balance
That's the perfect equation.
And that's my goal.