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The Martha in the Room

I’ve always loved Lent. It’s felt like a spiritual reset in a way. Ash Wednesday, as morbid of a rap as it gets, is one of my favorite non-biblical holy days because of the way it gets me thinking about Scripture. About the promises that are made to us.

There’s only been a couple of Lenten seasons where I went big. Most of them have been giving up soda, or fast food, or pizza. One year I stuffed a grocery bag a day with my dad to either donate or throw away. Those were sacrifices (which is what I think we’re normally drawn to during Lent because, you know, if Jesus can do forty days in a desert, I think I can give up Dr. Pepper) and while they did a service to me and worked their purpose, they didn’t actually bring me any closer to God. Which I think is the bullet point that gets dropped off the end of the Lent memo every year.

Jesus was tempted with sin in the desert. So our natural response is to cut out something that tempts us or creates sin in our lives. I agree but I counter with the fact that sin, in its most basic form, is a separation from God. Therefore…shouldn’t we be more interested in giving up or taking something on during Lent that works to bring us closer to God every day? I don’t think that makes whatever you give up or take on any less of a challenge because, let’s be real, any time we try to get closer and closer to God, it’s guaranteed to be a bit of a challenge. Maybe I’m making stuff up as I go here but this is the logic I landed on for Lent of 2021.

This year, I’m doing a couple different things. The first is creating. Creating makes me feel so close to the Creator but consistently creating is a bit of a challenge for me. I don’t always see it as productive or a priority. To put it very church-y, I get very caught up in the worldly bits of life and very actively ignore the holy bits of life. So, I’ll be creating something every single day. Since we’re a week post-Ash Wednesday, so far I’ve created photographs, learned how to create artistic gifs out of my photographs, crocheted for some of my most loved people, and baked banana bread. Creation comes in so many forms.

Alongside creating, I’m putting into place a morning routine that forcibly shoves me closer to God because sometimes I truly need to be forcibly shoved. Before pandemic time, I treasured getting up early. I would be up by 5:30 a.m. or earlier to drink my coffee, do homework, watch whatever I wanted for a little bit, get prepared to take on the day. Kyle and I call it my “me time”. After pandemic life, I slowly stopped getting up so early. Not on purpose, it just happened. I no longer had to commute, then I stopped getting fully ready for Zoom calls, then I got to the point of all but rolling out of bed sixty seconds before opening my computer. My mental health, productivity, and peace spiralled my friends. Although I didn’t truly recognize it until maybe two weeks ago.

So I’m slowly but surely inching myself closer and closer to the time I’d like to get up instead of just trying to jump back into where I was a year ago. I also downloaded an app called Everyday Prayer that’s doing a daily Lent series of, what I like to call, mindset meditations. There’s a one sentence prayer to start, a verse or two to chew on, a breathing exercise where you breathe in part of a phrase and breathe out part of a phrase for two to five minutes. My favorite so far has been “Restore Me (breathe in) To Joy (breathe out)”. Then there’s an area to write a few gratitudes and an area to write where you need God to be at work in the day/week to come. Very low key, very low expectation. Show up as you are (which is normally very sleepy). The whole process takes about three to four minutes. It’s what I do the second I get up. Before I even drink my coffee.

Along with that meditation practice, I have two devotional books. That and two devo books seems excessive, I know. But one of those books is about a social media fast and I honestly knew I’d need more than one short, daily read to keep myself from picking up my phone after the first fifteen minutes of my morning.

The first book is called The 40 Day Social Media Fast by Wendy Speake. I’m sure she expects it to be a full-on no apps at all fast…but I’m a photographer and run a youth group and help lead college students and young adults so that’s not really in the playbook for me right now. Instead, I’m using it to be intentional about my social media use. I have a timer set on my two most-used apps and so I use my time in those apps as wisely as I can because I only have so many minutes allowed. Reading the four or five page sections a day (that’s what it’s written for) has me starting every day remembering how I want to approach social media. Key here being: I don’t have the excuse of forgetting.

The second book is called Is It Just Me? by Grace Valentine. Another twentysomething stumbling through life but doing it productively enough to create faithful journal prompts at the same time. Journaling has always been hard for me so having questions that I actually want to answer makes keeping it much easier for me. Even if the questions way hard sometimes.

After I use Everyday Sanctuary, I pour the coffee, I read both the books, and I walk the dog. This accounts for the first hour (if not hour and a half) of my day.

I love it.

Well, some days I start it pretty begrudgingly…but I can feel what it’s doing for my mind, my body, and my spirit and I love that.

I doubt you need as intensive of a Lenten practice experience but let me tell you very quickly why I got so immersive about it:

I am, far far more often than not, the Martha in the room.

You know the story. Jesus went to visit Mary and Martha and Mary sat at his feet soaking in every word while Martha slaved away in the kitchen. Martha got real ticked about it (as would I) and decided to ask Jesus to reprimand Mary for not helping. Instead, Jesus told Martha that, of the two of them, Mary was the only one paying attention to the one thing that really mattered.

Martha was, no doubt, an Enneagram 2 and a productivity, servant gal to the bone.


Martha and I would get along swimmingly.

Mary and I would…butt heads.

I could go into a long explanation on the things Mary could see that us Martha’s are too busy to look at and what it means that so many of us find ourselves too busy serving productivity to make time for God.

Yikes.

But, I think you get the picture. Martha was my inspiration for Lent this year. Not that I want to shame her or the Martha’s of the world. Not that she’s my what-not-to-do example. Martha’s have the greatest of intentions. But because I sympathize so greatly with wanting it all. Wanting the time with Jesus and wanting the serving nature and wanting the productivity gold star. I want it all.

But…when I say “sit at the feet of Jesus” in 2021 terms instead of biblical terms, what I mean is taking care of yourself. Our aggressive need to be busy and productive and serve others has led to neglecting ourselves and our own needs and our own mental, emotional, and spiritual health. It’s like the airplane oxygen mask. The flight attendant always tells us to put our own mask on before helping others. God knows I’d be the one stupid person on the plane to stick it on the person next to me before sticking it on myself. However, as a wise author I know once said: if you stick their mask on first, you save them and maybe don’t save yourself. If you stick your mask on first, you could save the whole plane.

To sit at the feet of Jesus in my tiny, suburban home at 6:00 in the morning means allowing myself to drink the coffee slowly, journal the things intentionally, eat the food that serves me, rest my body appropriately, say “no” to anything that pulls me away from that. All of those things bring me closer and closer to the feet of Jesus because I’m finally allowing myself time to even step out of Martha’s kitchen and into the living room He sat in. When you’ve done those things for yourself, you can serve more and produce better than your little Martha soul ever dreamed of before.

Put on the damn oxygen mask and sit at the feet of Jesus.


 

Resources:


Everyday Sanctuary: https://everydaysanctuary.com

40 Day Social Media Fast: https://www.wendyspeake.com/social-media

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