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 me!” “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 10:38-42
Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
– Romans 12:2
Sometimes renewal is a grand and extraordinary experience. But renewal is also something that can happen on a regular basis. It doesn’t require desperation. Just like subscriptions get renewed before depletion, we can plan to engage in the renewing of our minds, trusting that God will grace us with added refreshment of the spirit.
Martha’s struggle is familiar to many of us. We live in a culture that tells us we need to do so many, many things. If we conform to the pattern of busyness, distractibility, and (perhaps) generalized anger of this culture, then we have little time to practice the presence of God and to sit at the feet of Jesus. This is no minor thing. It is, perhaps, no surprise that we can feel battered by our daily lives. Consider these thoughts:
“A successful life has become a violent enterprise. We make war on our own bodies, pushing them beyond their limits; war on our children, because we cannot find enough time to be with them; war on our spirit, because we are too preoccupied to listen to the quiet voices that seek to nourish and refresh us.” – Wayne Meads
“To allow oneself to be carried away by a multitude of conflicting concerns, to surrender to too many demands, to commit oneself to too many projects, to want to help everyone in everything, is to succumb to violence. It destroys the fruitfulness of our own work, because it kills the root of inner wisdom which makes work fruitful.” – Thomas Merton
Jesus is kind with Martha and corrects her idea that “many” things “had to be done”. He redirects her. We see a big change in her in the gospel of John (chapter 11). Martha does not stay stuck. Renewal is sometimes a season and an occasion, but it is also a way of life. We can choose by God’s grace to be a renewing people, a Sabbath people, a look-first-to-Jesus people.
Most of us need some practical steps for a way of life to take hold. There are no formulas of seven steps to a splendid life that actually work, but there are practices we can adopt that can help us. There might be one or two that you can adopt, such as:
- to pray for 5 minutes before getting out of bed
- to have a meaningful conversation each day
- to reflect on Scripture each day at an appointed time (or a time that makes sense for that day and was committed to in advance), using an alarm if helpful
- to get enough sleep
- to pray while walking the dog
- to check in on a neighbor each day
- to follow a Bible reading plan with a friend or group
- to practice a time of reflection at a shared family meal (everyone answering a question about their experience that day, a family devotional, etc.) on a daily/regular basis
- to spend time outside each day
- to spend time “in nature”, in solitude, or in devoted fellowship each week
- to eat nutritious food
What is a good way for you to choose something better and embrace renewal?
Captain Maureen Diffley is the Program Specialist for Women’s Ministries at Southern Territorial Headquarters. This article is excerpted from Embrace: Cultivating Authentic Community, Leader’s Guide 2018, which is available on www.tsamtk.org as a free, downloadable PDF and online at Amazon and Barnes & Noble as a bound book for purchase.