Martha’s Moment

For years I have chafed at the flak Martha gets whenever the Mary and Martha story fromMarta_e_Maria Luke 10 is told. I have always identified with Martha. Someone had to prepare the meal, right? Someone had to extend hospitality! Yet the story is often presented as Jesus rebuking Martha, and then holding Mary up as the quintessential Christian woman.

But there is another Mary and Martha story. It is found John’s gospel, and I like it much better!

You may remember that Mary and Martha had a brother named Lazarus, and they lived in Bethany. Now Lazarus died, and when Jesus got word of his death he took his time getting to Bethany, though it was only a couple of miles from Jerusalem. The professional mourners were there, as well as friends who came to console Mary and Martha. This might well have been another opportunity for Martha to slip into her super-hostess role.

But when Martha heard Jesus was coming, she ran out to meet him, leaving her houseguests. Mary stayed inside, too.  Martha’s conversation with Jesus is as revealing as it is lovely. She professes faith in the resurrection, and belief that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God.

So, who gets it this time?!!! Mary is sitting at home wailing, and who is running out to greet Jesus, professing Him as the Christ? That’s right…it’s Martha!

(OK, I know my reaction is a just a bit over the top, but surely you see the justification, right?)

Seriously…something came of Martha’s encounter with Jesus back in Luke 10. The truth of the matter is that Jesus blessed Martha because he told her the truth about herself…

Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things…

In essence, Jesus was revealing to Martha her false self–the identity she had established for herself that was rooted in appearances and propriety.

Somewhere between that first visit and the death of her brother, Martha came to understand her true identity as one lovingly created by God to be in communion with him forever. This is evident in her profession of faith in the resurrection—that time when the dead would be raised to an eternal life with God, herself included. In that moment of truth with Jesus, I think Martha encountered the Living God who revealed to her her true self, freeing Martha from the false self–the woman whose worth was rooted in her performance.

We are all like Martha in one way or another. Like Martha, we have created our own identity, often completely de-centered from God. And Jesus is just waiting for us to allow him to speak to that identity, to reveal our false self, so that we can shed it like the dead weight it is!

Will you allow Jesus to address your false self? He is not anxious to give a sharp rebuke, but rather a gentle and loving invitation to release that which is not of Christ so that your true self–your Christ-self–can emerge.

You might begin by praying, “Come, gentle Jesus…”

 

A new perspective

I am a lapsed blogger. Yes, it’s sad, but true. There was once a time when I wrote a blogpost every week. Over time, I slipped to one every other week. Now I do well to write one a month. I keep telling myself that it’s OK…I’m certainly not alone! But the renewal notice for my domain name popped into my mailbox last week. To renew or not to renew? That is the question.

To be honest, I have struggled to find a voice lately. For years I have written about equipping, aka volunteer ministry. I’m definitely for it, and have had lots of thoughts and ideas to share about it. But over the past year or so I’ve wondered if I have said all I have to say on the subject. Nothing new or particularly interesting has come to mind. I still equip volunteer ministers in my church, and I still work with church leaders to help them develop their volunteer ministry. But when it comes to writing…well, I just don’t have anything new to say. It’s easier to point to the stuff I’ve already written.

I was blessed to lead a retreat recently, speaking with women about the deeper journey of living from the Christ-self. Not my usual presentation material. But preparing for the WP_20160520_018retreat helped me understand why I feel I’ve lost my voice for equipping ministry. God has been changing my perspective.

I’m a second-half-of-life person. I’ve turned a corner, so to speak, and am finding that the old me and my old way of doing things is something less than satisfactory now. I recently prayed with a woman who is also in the second half of her life. She had been experiencing health problems that sidelined her from ministry she loves. As we talked, the Spirit showed me that she was fearful, prompting me to ask her if she was afraid that God was taking away her ministry permanently. She wept, confessing that she was indeed afraid. “I know this is the ministry I’m called to do because I am so excited about it,” she cried. “It’s what I live for. It’s who I am.”

For several years I’ve asked the question, “What excites you?” during ministry discovery conversations with people. I think it’s a valid question for people in the first half of life. But once we turn that corner into the second half, we begin to see that excitement isn’t always all it’s cracked up to be.

A few years ago, God decided he had something new for me to do. I didn’t like that idea, but my arms are too short to box with God. No amount of protestation would change his mind, so I reluctantly submitted. These days I have fewer opportunities for gifts discovery conversations with people, and many more opportunities for offering healing prayer. Which brings me back to the woman I was praying with.

God comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.                          2 Corinthians 1:4 (NLT)

As we spoke, I was able to share my experience of God calling me to a different path and a new ministry. I was a bit surprised to tell her that I don’t get as “excited” about healing prayer ministry as I do about discovery conversations. And yet this new ministry is equally as fulfilling and life-giving as the former. As it turns out, excitement is not the litmus test I once thought it was. There’s a lot to be said for obedience.
I guess it’s OK that I don’t have anything new to say about equipping. God is revealing some new things, giving me a fresh perspective in this season of life. Hmmm…Maybe I should renew that domain registration after all, just in case I find a new voice!