I find it helpful to take time out over the summer to review my year so far in the light of the recalibration I always try to make space for during each New Year period. Perhaps this half-year review is the throwback to days when my years ran from September to August; perhaps it is an admission that in a way they do even now, being married to a teacher and (still!) engaged in studies myself. This time last year I was reflecting on a series of practices which I had wanted to incorporate into my life. This year, the form of my thoughts in the post which follows are different as I reflect back on where I was at six months ago as we were turning the page into yet another new year and what changes I have seen since then.
How often I am guilty of running ahead. How often the vision I see becomes bigger than even the God from whom it came. How often my zeal to serve him overshadows my passion to be with him.
Now you’d think I’d have got this one sorted by now. You’d think that repeated exposure to those Scriptures which talk about the one thing, the Son’s unshakeable commitment to do only what the Father is doing, Mary’s gentle stubbornness in choosing only to sit at a certain rabbi’s feet…you’d think it would have changed me. You’d think that sometimes searingly-accurate prophetic words telling me ‘Daughter, relax!’ or to rest in him would have done the trick. You’d think that a series of coaching conversations, endless and much-needed variations on the theme of an aggressive pruning towards the beauty of the one thing, that this too would have formed me.
And, in its way, each of these things has conspired to change me. I’ve learned to say No in order to say Amen to his Yes. I’ve reminded myself countless times that he doesn’t need me, that he can do this without me, that the Saviour never needed a Superwoman. And, for passing moments, my insatiable drive to serve him has been quieted just long enough for me to respond to the whispered invitation to the one thing, to the heart of a Mary.
But still I have moments of despair. This drivenness has been dealt more than a few death blows in the last seven months. Yet die it will not. Seemingly. And I realise that it comes from a place of unfaith, of untrust and of unhope. It is born out of a heart not fully surrendered to that rabbi at whose feet Mary sat so peacefully. It comes from a flesh that wants to use its strength to serve that rabbi, a Martha-life that cannot stop long enough for that flesh, those gifts, those abilities, to die before the One who is very life itself.
I know my strengths. I know my gifts. I know my abilities. Though I admit I find it hard to hear others name them, though I admit that too often I am Saul hiding behind the baggage, afraid of owning all that I am, of what others might think, I know what I can bring to the table. And so, like Martha, I do. When something could be fixed with my ideas, my skills, my relational connections, then fix it I will. Still. Because I can. Because in that moment I am under the misapprehension that the Saviour might actually need a Superwoman. Though I don’t do it to be seen – indeed I would rather serve in quiet and hidden ways – I do it because the need is there and I can meet it.
Yet my call is not to the mindlessness of a servant, the idolatry of a Martha who puts the work before the Master. Rather, my call – and yours too, friend – is to the heart of one intimate with the Master, one who can ignore the zeal to serve him in the face of the passion to be with him.
This. This is my longing, my struggle.
To die that I might really live.
To trust that sometimes, even though I am able to do something, he would rather work through another, even out of what might seem like inability, in a miracle of bringing what is out of what was not.
To believe that he wants me not for what I can do but for who I am.
And so I wait. Not in despair but in hope. Because he has this way in the end, this way of leading those whom he loves to the death which precedes a Mary-life, a resurrection-life. And that is worth waiting for.