Busyness Business

Before we begin, I need to ask you a question, one that no one has probably ever asked you. How much do you like your toes? Yes, you read that right–there is no typo there. I’m asking you about those nasty little digits attached to your foot. You know, the ones that are beyond gross on like 90% of people? Your toes. Now that we’re clear, let me repeat my question: how much do you like your toes? If you REALLY love your toes and are rather sensitive in temperament, I’m going to tell you straight: you might want to find something else to read. The topic that I feel God has really laid on my heart lately is one that I can guarantee will stomp on several sets of toes. For some of you, I’m likely to step on only one or two toes (you’ll be fine. You have several others…probably.). For some others of you, though, there’s a chance I’m about to step–maybe even painfully–on nine or ten of those suckers. While I certainly don’t ever aim to upset anyone, I trust that what God says in the Bible is Truth. That means that I believe that all the lessons taught to us in the Bible are the ones we should follow, not this pick-and-choose-to-suit-yourself-and-what-you-want mess that we so often do. If you feel sore in the toes (or spirit) after reading this, I highly recommend that you spend some time with God, asking Him why, because I’d be willing to bet there’s something in this that He’d like to discuss with you. And better Him than me, am I right?

If you aren’t familiar with the story of Mary and Martha found in the book of Luke, I highly encourage you to check it out. It’s literally only five verses (Luke 10: 38-42), but there’s so much wisdom and guidance in it, especially for a world like the one we face today. I’ll give you a quick summary, but it’s only five verses to begin with. Come on, people, you can handle that!

While traveling with his disciples, Jesus came upon the village in which Martha and Mary lived. Martha welcomed him and his fellow travelers back to her home for a meal. At her home, Jesus meets Mary, Martha’s sister. While Martha hustles into the kitchen, focused on the task in front of her, Mary chooses to sit at Jesus’s feet in order to focus on Him and His teachings. So to clarify, Martha’s goal was to do; Mary’s goal was to listen and learn. (This is highly important. You’ll want to remember it for later.)

The Bible tells us, though, that things went wrong quickly. Martha, bothered and frustrated and stressed, essentially asks Jesus to scold her sister for choosing to sit instead of helping her in the kitchen. Verse 40 finds Martha approaching Jesus and saying, “Lord, is it nothing to You that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me!” Oh the variety of times I’ve thought this in my life…times when I thought Nathan wasn’t doing as much as I was around here, and I wanted my “greater contribution” recognized. Times that I thought other moms didn’t have kids as needy and high-maintenance as mine, and I wanted someone to recognize just how much work I was doing. Times at work when I thought other teachers were being recognized for hard work but whom I felt had much easier students than I did. And this list could go on and on, I’m sure.

Before we go forward and see Jesus’s reply to Martha’s demand, let’s take a minute to pay careful attention to Martha’s behavior. We know Martha was upset with her sister. We know Martha felt she was left doing all the work while Mary relaxed and enjoyed leisure time with Jesus. But let’s read between the lines for a moment, really look closely at our friend Martha. First, I feel it bears noting that this whole “come over and eat…I’ll cook for you and all your friends” idea was actually Martha’s. The Bible specifically tells us it was Martha who brought Jesus and his disciples into her home. Mary is never even mentioned until after Martha returns home with Jesus. Second, Martha gets upset with her sister for not helping her serve the food to their guests. Anybody been there before? Anybody ever gotten mad at someone for not doing something you never asked them to do, something you just sort felt they should intuitively know you wanted them to do? Hands up, wives! (Why are women so bad about expecting their men to just read their minds??) We’ve all been where Martha is, regardless of gender. We’ve all expected someone to help us without ever being straight-forward about our need. Let’s not stop at this little mini-lesson, however. Let’s look a tiny bit closer.

The true motivation behind Martha’s upset is unclear. Maybe she was very, very set on impressing Jesus (haven’t we all fallen into this trap?) and was distraught at the thought of trying to handle that task without her sister’s help. But maybe it was a true goodness that caused Martha’s upset. She knew about Jesus. She knew He was the Messiah, and I feel pretty safe assuming she was beyond honored to have Him in her house. Maybe, just maybe, the reason she was so upset with Mary was because she was jealous of that time Mary was getting with the Savior while she slaved away in the kitchen. While Martha’s behavior in this story isn’t the kind for us to emulate, I can certainly understand and admire her desire to be so near Jesus and to hear His teachings and His words that she’s irritated by the other demands on her time. So maybe a sincere desire for Jesus, when it’s not accompanied by judgment of or anger and bitterness toward someone else, isn’t such a bad things after all? You mull that one over, and we’ll continue on with our Bible story.

After Martha asks Jesus to scold Mary, we get a chance to see His reply to her. In verse 41 it says, “But the Lord replied to her by saying, Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things.” HOLD THE PHONE!!! I AM MARTHA! You take out Martha’s name and insert mine, and this exact statement of Jesus’s would apply to me and my life more than daily. You are anxious and troubled about many things. Wow. I feel certain that if I could take a poll and ask those of you who feel this description fits your life right this second, all the hands would raise. “Lindsey, Lindsey, you are anxious and troubled about many things.” Yep, no doubt Jesus has spoken exactly this so many times. Look closely at that response from our Lord, at the tender way He says her name twice before getting to the real issue: Martha, Martha. When I picture this exchange I see Martha red-faced, sweating, hair askew from all of her frazzled preparations in the hot kitchen. I see her, hands on hips, standing in front of Jesus with that accusatory index finger aimed straight for her lazy, unhelpful sister. And then I see Jesus. I see Him reach for her, taking her hot, damp hands in His while calmly saying, in an almost whisper, “Martha, Martha.” But Jesus doesn’t stop there, He explains to further help Martha see the error of her ways: “There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her” (vs. 42). The teachings of Jesus: the one thing worth being concerned about. Boy, do I get this one wrong so very often.

I don’t believe that Mary had nothing to do but sit there. I don’t believe that Mary was oblivious that her decision was one that irked her sister. I do believe, however, that Mary chose quality over quantity. I believe that she weighed it all out and determined that no matter what was expected of her socially, her first and foremost priority was Jesus Christ.

(PSA: Hide those toes…here we go!) Y’all, we are messing this up BIG TIME. This busyness business that we all have going has got to stop! We are all Marthas. We are all overstressed and overworked and overscheduled and overdrawn and over it. Why are we constantly doing this? What are we giving up so that we can put our kids in 17 different sports each season WHEN THEY’RE FOUR?! What are we giving up so that we can checklist to our friends and post pictures on social media of all the things we do with our kids throughout the year? What are we giving up when we say yes to every single offer made on our time? I’ll answer these questions for you because they all share the same answer: Jesus. People, we are literally giving up Jesus–the presence of Jesus, the Spirit of Jesus, the peace of Jesus, the Word of Jesus–so that we can put more of NOTHING eternal on our plates. This busyness that we so idolize, these full-to-bursting schedules that have us eating out every night and exhausting ourselves, our kids, and our marriages, these things are NOT the things of Jesus. Being still, listening, resting in the presence of God…these are the things of Jesus. Don’t believe me? Do that thing you never have time to do anymore because you have no free time: read your Bible. You’ll be surprised at what you find in there that instructs us to settle ourselves so that we don’t miss God moving and speaking in our lives. Maybe you can’t give 30 minutes or an hour a day to reading your Bible right now, and you know what, that’s okay. God can speak to you in less time than that. BUT. It’s important that we get really honest about our time and our priorities before determining what we can and can’t do. Isn’t 5 or 10 minutes spent with God far better and infinitely more beneficial to you and your family than those 5 or 10 minutes you spend on social media? (And let’s not pretend you’re only spending 5-10 minutes on social media daily.)

Be a Mary, not a Martha. Don’t give Jesus reason to say your name over and over again, concerned because you are so stressed, so distracted, so distant from Him and such a stranger to His Word. I know I haven’t been a parent for very long, but I can promise you this anyway: nothing you enroll your kids in, nothing you haul them all over creation to participate in, nothing that you yourself volunteer your time for will impact them and the rest of their lives like watching their mom and dad carve out precious, necessary time with Jesus. Be a Mary. Stop the hustle and the excess of everything, and decide daily to sit at the feet of Jesus. You won’t miss out on anything. I promise.

Dear Lord, thank you so much that you give of yourself so that I can spend time in your peace, your presence, your Word, and your wisdom. Help me, please, Lord, to re-prioritize my busy life so that instead of an afterthought, you are my main priority. I want to spend time with You and then fit other things into my schedule when/if time allows. This is not easy for me, God. Please help me to heed the Holy Spirit’s guiding so that I can rearrange my life and become more like Mary. Thank you, Lord, for helping me and for hearing me. When it’s all said and done, Lord, I want to desire you and time with you more than anything else. Help me to slow down. In Jesus’s name I pray, Amen.

 

 

Philippians 2:3–Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility, value others above yourself.

The Disease of Comparison

We’ve all been there. We’re bored, we have extra time, we’re trapped in a germ-coated waiting room, so we click that social media app. Sometimes what we get is the greatest of all the Internet gifts: baby goats in pajamas. (Google this IMMEDIATELY if you’ve never seen it. It will make your whole life!) Other times, however, by the time we close out of Instagram or Facebook (or whatever app we’re currently trying to learn because the young folks think it’s cool), we’re left with a different feeling.

Given I use it to {shamelessly} promote this blog, it might surprise you to learn that I have a love-hate relationship with social media. While I LOVE being able to keep up with current events, friends, favorite Christian speakers, and especially former students, I frequently experience that feeling I mentioned above. You see, I have a disease that is fed by social media. What disease you ask? The disease of comparison.

Right or wrong, good or bad, I compare pretty much every aspect of my life to others’. Before social media (that existed right? A time when our whole lives weren’t shared and monitored by others. Did I dream that?), my ability to compare was limited. I could compare myself and my life to my friends and their lives, but only if they told me what was going on with them. Now, however, the game has totally changed, and for me personally, not for the better.

I told you guys from the start that I’d be totally honest with each blog post. Hopefully, if you read the last one, you realized that I wasn’t exaggerating. In keeping with that, I want to be very upfront with this topic: I am not posting from a “healed” perspective with this one. I am right in the midst of the struggle, trying to make sure that it’s God’s glory I seek and obtain, instead of worldly glorification.

Now that it’s summer and everyone’s off on their cruises and beach trips and glorious, argument-free family vacations (because isn’t this the image we try to project with our posts?), I find myself struggling more with this comparison disease. I watch my friends take their kids to fun water park after fun water park, beach after beach, day outing after day outing, and I compare. I compare myself as a mom: why am I not as much fun as they are? Are my priorities out of whack? Am I putting my child at a disadvantage because she’s not constantly being given new experiences? Could I possibly be teaching her an okay lesson by requiring that she find her own entertainment, or is that too old-school a style of parenting?

I also begin comparing lifestyles, especially financial lifestyles. I suddenly feel very impoverished compared to all of my friends, even some strangers whose lives I witness online. Suddenly I lose sight of the food in my fridge, my over-filled pantry, my ability to go to the store when a need arises, our air-conditioned house, our healthy family. I have perspective, I really do, but sometimes I see others doing what I wish to do, and it stings. I have even seen others doing what I have NO DESIRE TO DO, and I’ve still compared my life to theirs and felt lacking.

There’s a flip-side to comparison, too, and it’s just as dangerous. It’s called pride. Comparison can cause us to become judgmental as well. How many times have we seen a post, and regardless of what we’re feeling (jealousy mainly), we suddenly find ourselves comparing in a way that has us coming out on top. Maybe it’s regarding someone’s parenting. Or someone’s choices about how to spend their money. Or someone’s looks. I’ve done it. I’d be willing to bet you’ve done it.

I noticed my disease, my comparison disease, becoming much stronger once I became a parent and the more involved with social media I became. I wanted to share my life, especially my sweet girl, with my family and friends online, so I knew that I had to get my head and heart right. I knew that Satan had identified a serious weakness in my armor and was using it to his scheming advantage. I also knew, however, that I alone wouldn’t be able to win this battle. I began to pray specifically about my problem with comparison, and as God promised in His Word, He brought me insight and knowledge about this issue.

First of all, God showed me that this wasn’t something I was dealing with alone. Not only is it something that we all deal with (more often than we’d readily admit), but it’s something He knew we’d struggle with, hence this warning scripture from 2 Corinthians 10:12: “…when they measure themselves with themselves and compare themselves with one another, they are without understanding and behave unwisely.” I’ll be honest, when I first saw this scripture I was shocked; as it’s done many times before, God’s relevancy just blew me away. It further proved that comparison and its negative side-effects need ridding from our lives.

God also showed me how much like a disease comparison truly can be when left untreated. It can show up at any time, and it attacks anyone, regardless of age, social status, marital status, race, gender, etc. No one is immune, and sadly, there’s no vaccine. Like any illness, comparison has symptoms. It wasn’t until I began to notice these symptoms in my own life/mind that I began to be able to put comparison in its place. Let’s see if you currently have any, or have ever exhibited any, symptoms of comparison.

  • Blurred vision with the possibility of blindness
  • Partial hearing loss with the possibility of total deafness
  • Depression, a feeling of defeat, and/or a lack of gratitude
  • In some rare but dangerous cases, death

Blurred vision/blindness: God is so good to us, and He gives each one of us a vision for our lives. But if we’re so busy watching everyone else’s lives, we will miss our own. In that same respect, focusing so much on what everyone else has, what everyone else is getting that you’re not, what everyone else is experiencing that you’re not, you become completely blind to God moving in your own life. We are each touched DAILY by the favor and hand of God, but how often do we notice? We might see it in someone else’s life, but when we’re so busy looking outward, we just become blind. We don’t see God, we don’t see His hand or His favor, and suddenly we become blind to anything else God might try to show us: others who we can help, others whose pain we can ease, others who need to hear about all the blessings God’s gifting us…all those blessings we’re no longer seeing because we’re so focused on how we don’t measure up when compared to someone else.

Loss of hearing/deafness: It’s no secret that when we pray to God, when we develop our relationship with Him, He responds to us. Some people even hear His literal voice (this has never happened to me, just FYI). But when we spend our time comparing ourselves to others, our heads fill up with noise, drowning out our ability to hear God direct our lives. Instead of hearing God’s direction or guidance for our lives, we hear the chatter of insecurity: why don’t I have a new house? Why do they get a new car and I drive this old one that breaks down constantly? How can they afford that vacation? Why am I not as good of a mom? Why aren’t my kids as smart/well-behaved/easy-going? Why does God constantly bless them while I’m over here riding the struggle-bus every day? The Bible tells us that God speaks in a still, quiet voice. Because He needs us to draw near to Him, because He wants us to quiet our internal noise in order to focus on Him, comparison robs us of our ability to hear God in many circumstances, often deafening us to His voice completely.

Depression/feelings of defeat/a lack of gratitude: It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that if you spend your time comparing yourself to others in every way and continually coming up empty, you’re not going to feel good about yourself, your life, your relationships, your past, your present, or your future. What you will feel, however, is defeated, depressed, and dejected. Who wants that? It seems like a simple enough question, but you and I both know you wouldn’t have made it this far into this blog post if you could just reason your way out of using comparison against yourself.  Those of you who are parents or aunt and uncles, imagine giving your child/niece/nephew gift after gift, only to have him/her constantly pointing at what another kid has, wanting something different, something you know isn’t even necessarily right for him/her. Isn’t this what we do to God, though? When we compare, we become instantly disenchanted with all of the many, many blessings God gives us (daily!), and instead, we stand there with our chubby little toddler fingers pointing at all those things the next person has that we don’t. Each time I find myself wishing or wanting because of something I see someone else getting, I try my best to turn that into gratitude for even the smallest blessings (a green light when I so desperately needed it) in MY life. I desire to be grateful, and the disease of comparison makes that impossible.

Possible death: We’ve all seen it happen: someone convinces him/herself that the grass is greener on the other side, and before most of us know what’s happening, a family is broken. My friends, no one can withstand constant comparison. If you find yourself constantly comparing your spouse to someone else’s, or just other spouses in general, please stop. He/she doesn’t deserve that. If you are one to frequently compare your child (speaking to myself here!!) to others, please stop. He/she doesn’t deserve that. Comparison might begin small and simple, but it doesn’t stay that way. It opens a door into which Satan can often slip undetected. If comparison is left untreated for long enough, it festers, rotting out marriages, relationships, joy, peace, contentment, even dreams for our futures.

As I stated at the beginning, I don’t have the answer on how to completely rid your life of comparison. I have asked God “what do I do?” several times, and so all I can do is share with you what medicine, if you will, that God has provided for me. Two scriptures have helped me gain and keep a little bit of perspective so that I am better prepared to win the war against comparison when it rears its ugly head. In 2 Timothy 2:22, God details a list of those things which we should aim for and actively pursue. They are faith, love, peace, fellowship with others, and a pure heart. Since all of these qualities can’t exist inside a heart filled with jealousy, something has to go. I choose jealousy. On the opposite side, since these qualities can’t exist inside a heart filled with pride, something has to go. I choose pride. When in the midst of a strong bout of comparison, I remove myself (i.e. turn off my silly phone), remind myself of all that God has given me, and I meditate on the scripture of 2 Timothy 2:20, “But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver, but also [utensils] of wood and earthenware, and some for honorable and noble [use] and some for menial and ignoble [use].” We are all different; we are all special; we are all created by God on purpose and for a purpose. No one else has your purpose; therefore, no one else has your life, your circumstances, your challenges, or your victories.

I don’t know about you, but I want MY blessings…not someone else’s. I want MY life and MY husband and MY sweet baby girl…not someone else’s. I can’t tell you how to eliminate comparison, but I can tell you that it takes determination and intentional thinking and living. I have a unique and valuable daughter. I refuse for her to see me and hear me, and one day catch my disease of comparison.

Dear Lord, I am so incredibly grateful for every single blessing you’ve supplied in my life, be it big or small. God, I am determined to live my life, to accept my circumstances, and to be more aware of the beauty present in my day-to-day. Help me, Lord, to rid my heart and mind of comparison and its nasty side-effects. Help me to focus on my life and my relationship with you, and help me to know exactly what I need to do in order to stop Satan from being able to use this “disease” against me. Father, I ask that you heal me from it, and I ask that you open my eyes to MY life. You are so loving and so gracious and so kind, and I don’t want to miss a minute of all you’re doing in my world. Thank you for hearing me and for helping me. In Jesus’s name I pray. Amen.

 

 

Philippians 2:3–Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility, value others above yourself.