The Grace of Organisation: Lessons From Mary & Martha [Part II].

#TalkingThursday – If you don’t talk about Jesus who will?

Last week, I introduced this concept of the grace of organisation and how Christians often struggle to find a balance between these 3 boxes:

Box 1. Spending time with the Lord (devotion, secret place, whatever else you call it)

Box 2. Spending time serving the Lord (aka. “good works” – Charities, homeless, evangelism)

Box 3. Everything else (school, parenting, chores, entertainment etc).

I then did a somewhat long commentary on the story of Mary and Martha in Luke 10:38-42, to gain fresh insight on how the Lord empowers us with great grace to balance our various priorities. Let’s review the passage again:

Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”

– Luke 10:38-42 [ESV]

Although when studying this passage, we scold Martha for being anxious and frustrated about preparations rather than sitting at the feet of Jesus, the reality is that someone has to do the work.

In the end, someone has to be responsible for all the other important stuff we have to get done after spending time with Jesus such as taking care of our children, kids, exams, parents and spouses!

How do we stay on top of it all?

Lesson 1: Don’t Over Commit Yourself.

Sometimes we over commit ourselves to more work than we can handle due to our selfishness and pride. Our wrong motives cause us to think highly of ourselves, we lust after the spotlight and don’t want to give room for others to display/develop their talents. As a result, we take on all the responsibility by ourselves and become stressed, frustrated and disorganised trying to balance everything.

Don’t be afraid to D-E-L-E-G-A-T-E

The disciples, when called upon in Acts 6 to attend to Hellenistic Widows in the church, chose to delegate because they knew it would take them away from their true service: the ministry of the word and prayer! They made sure that doing good works would not distract them from devotion to God and in the process allowed others to take the spotlight and showcase their abilities.

It’s always best to focus on the areas that really require your skillsets and give the rest to someone who can handle it. It’s true that you’re very talented, but I’m sure there are others who can do the work well if you give them a chance.

So don’t think too highly of yourself and give someone else an opportunity. Just like the apostles, nothing is wrong with delegating work to others so you can stay focused on what is most important for you.

This leads to the next lesson point:

Lesson 2: It’s Okay To Get Help.

If you’ve over-committed yourself or you’re struggling with everything you’ve got on your to-do list, get help.

It’s always important to know who can help you out of a sticky situation and how best to approach them. No matter where you are, there are always resources around to help you. Seek them out and make use of them. There’s no shame in seeing a personal advisor, counsellor, therapist or mentor to ask for help.

However, go to the best source first.

We sometimes fall into the temptation of sharing our problems with those who have no business hearing about them esp. social media!, when the better thing would be to go straight to Jesus, the One (vs. 42) who can fix things first.

This is the major lesson we learn from Martha. Realising she’s frustrated by her unfair situation, she wastes no time in reporting to Jesus. She knows He is the only one who can fix things. She goes straight to Him and makes her request: make my sister assist me!

Prayer should be your first option, not the last resort. 

Yes, the story of Mary and Martha demonstrates that this applies just as much to staying organised as it does to everything else. The many times I struggled with juggling all sorts of academic and volunteer work in grad school, the best way to regain my balance was to simply stop and seek the Holy Spirit.

When we’re out of balance in the spirit, it spills over into our physical lives.

Martha goes to Jesus for help expecting a physical solution but He knew her problem was internal (worry and anxiousness), so He focused on the spiritual issue, not the earthly particulars.

Note that Jesus never rebukes Martha for interrupting His teaching. He doesn’t say, “Make your sister come and help you? Listen, you do not speak to me that way. Don’t you know who I am?” 

This shows that you can tell Jesus anything.

Unlike others, we have the best kind of audience with Jesus. He never holds our feelings and thoughts against us. He’s there as a pillar of comfort. Our beautiful High Priest, who knows and understands us like no other. He doesn’t get offended when we come to Him with our emotions and say exactly how we feel because He’s been through it too.

Jesus is the most approachable source of help you could ever encounter, so why remain disorganised when you can speak to someone who is not only eager to listen but capable of providing a way out!

Lesson 3: Of What Benefit Is This?

For many of us, our disorganisation comes from being distracted from the things we ought to place importance on. Mary did not let Martha use preparations to distract her from Jesus because she knew that the preparations did not have as much benefit as what she was learning at His feet.

Time management is key to maintaining a whole life balance. Determine what is important to you and allocate more time to it than anything. Always ensure you spend the right amount of time on the right activity.

When you are trying to allocate time to something, always ask the question: of what benefit is this? Of what benefit is the thing I’m about to embark on? What is the potential outcome of this activity? How does it contribute to the goals I am trying to achieve?

Martha was inviting Mary to join her in prioritizing preparations over Her Lord. In the end, of what benefit were those preparations? They will be taken away, but whatever Mary learned at the feet of Jesus could never be taken away from her.

Be careful of people who invite you to join them in prioritising distractions.

Such people want you to leave what is important and join them in their worry, frustration and anxiety over silly things. Stand your ground and don’t give in to their distractions. The enemy uses the same schemes to destroy our intimate fellowship with God, he comes distracting us with “preparations” so we spend no time at the feet of Jesus.

“Oh, I’m preparing for some exams so I have no time to attend church, I’ll just watch the online broadcast!”

“Sorry, I’m preparing for my wedding so I’m too busy for the prayer vigil, gotta get that beauty sleep!”

Distraction leads to excuses and excuses lead to backsliding.

Don’t fall for such tactics!

Lesson 4: Stay Organised By Staying Content.

Being disorganized breeds frustration. When you’re disorganized, you start to compare yourself to others you think are organized and have it better than you.

Look at Martha. Her frustration oozes from her discontent. As the story unfolds, we find Mary soaking up Jesus’s words while Martha is wiping sweat from her brow and scurrying around the kitchen trying to serve dinner for fifteen or more people with zero help!

She flies past the living room, sees her sister from the corner of her eye, laughing with Jesus and the crew. That’s the last straw.

Martha’s frustrated thoughts begin to escalate: You know what I’ve endured this nonsense for far too long now. How dare she do this to me? My own sister! Doesn’t she see I’m doing everything on my own?!

Not much later, she storms into the living room and explodes: “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her to help me!”

Comparison is where discontent begins.

Martha compares her life to her sister’s and realizes she got the short straw. She feels abandoned and alone in her service.

We often get caught in the same trap.

We focus on the lives of others via social media Instagram, twitter, facebook, Pinterest and feel the Lord has done us a great disservice with our lot. How many times have you looked at the life of another person and in response told God, “that’s unfair.”

Martha looked at Mary’s disposition and asked Jesus, “doesn’t it seem unfair TO YOU Lord?” Note the, “to you” in that statement. It may not seem unfair to others, but it should be unfair to God.

After all isn’t He a just and righteous God? Shouldn’t He know better than to leave me suffering while other people, aka sinners, are enjoying life?

We want the Lord to validate our comparison, take our side and justify our thoughts when in reality we’re coming from a place of discontent, pride and envy.

However, the truth is that comparison is a trickster because when we look at someone else’s “organised” life, we catch a snapshot, not the full story.

Although we might see a Mary who is lazing about at the feet of Jesus, the full story is that this is the same Mary who endured shame and humiliation as people watched her anoint Jesus with oil and wipe his feet with her hair (John 12:1-8).

No matter how it looks on the outside, God is at work in every story. No two stories are exactly the same yet God’s grace is different but sufficient for each situation. You may be feeling disorganised at the moment, but comparison won’t change the story; it will only steal your joy.

Lesson 5: Don’t Get Obsessed With Details.

Martha was out of her depth because was preparing an owanbe (a grand dinner) for someone who was more of a 5 loaves and 2 fishes person.

In God’s hands, the little is always more than enough.

Martha wanted to have, entrees, canapes, small chops, a starter, a main dish, dessert, party jollof rice, Chinese rice, all the soups: okro, ogbono, edikaikong, afang, egusi, efo, chicken sweetcorn soup, all the dumplings, the finest tablecloth from Italy, still water, sparkling water, mineral water, wine etc., so she focused on preparations and her peace was removed because she was obsessed with details.

Mary, on the other hand, could care less about how they were going to have dinner that evening because she knew that as long as the Lord was there, they wouldn’t starve, and that was enough to give her peace.

How many times do we lack peace over the promises of God because we’re obsessed with how He’ll make it come to pass?

We want God to tell us exactly HOW it’s going to happen, forgetting that the narrow way is narrow for a reason. It’s narrow so we can depend on God to guide us through it.

The path to peace begins with letting go of details. You’ll be more balanced in life if you simply learnt to trust God instead of worrying about things you have no power to change.

 

Conclusion.

Overcommitment leads to frustration, under-commitment leads to procrastination. Both are signs of a disorganised life. Find a balance between your Skillset + Time + Resources. This is the key to being organised. Where all three are present, you’ll be at your best. Where one of these things is absent, don’t be afraid to ask for help!

Many of us are not exclusively like Mary or Martha, rather it’s more likely we have the qualities of both sisters within us.

Sometimes we let our busy lives distract us from spending time with Jesus and listening to his word. Other times, we have the tendency to neglect everything else and forget about our other other responsibilities e.g. children, spouses, academics etc. For instance, many preacher’s kids end up neglected because their parents claimed to be “serving the Lord”. It should not be so.

We must strike a balance between these priorities so we don’t fall into disorder. The very point of seeing service and devotion displayed together in Luke 10 is to assure us that there is enough time for both. So don’t play off service for devotion or vice versa; make enough time for both.

The elusive grace of organization can be summed up in this statement:

Don’t worry about “the many” but “focus on the few”; on that which cannot be taken away [Luke 10:41-42].

As I drop my pen, I leave you with three truths which will keep you balanced in the busiest seasons of your life:

  1. You are never alone or without help when you focus on Jesus (Hebrews 13:5).
  2. His grace is different but sufficient for every situation (2 Corinthians 9:8).
  3. He will give you peace and strength to face whatever comes your way. (John 14:27).

 

SELAH

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