I’ve always been a Martha type.
I’m more likely to be “doing” than sitting at the feet of Jesus, even to the point of equating my own value as a person with how much I get done and how well I do it.
There have been times of transition from one season of life to another when the barricade of duties I’ve surrounded myself with to make me feel secure and good about myself get stripped away, and I am left feeling naked and exposed.
A New Season
There was the time we moved away from Arizona, where I had been working two part-time jobs, was active in our church, and had some kind of social or ministry commitment almost every night of the week. We came to Alaska knowing nobody, and within a week I was stir crazy.
I had two young boys to keep me busy and a house to get in order, yet I felt an emptiness I couldn’t shake. It was like I’d been running at full speed on a treadmill, only to have it stop suddenly; I was still running, but there was nowhere to go. I wanted to help someone, maybe get groceries for somebody who needed them or pray with someone going through a hard time. I was missing ministry desperately.
My Mission for Ministry
So I did what any lonely mom detoxing from activity overload would do: I bought a fast food breakfast meal and prayed God would lead me to someone who needed it. There. That would be my good deed for the day.
I think in the back of my mind I somehow felt like just living life and caring for my family and home wasn’t enough to bring value to the world. I needed to be doing work or ministry, or at the very least something.
I drove around Anchorage with my kids in the back seat to all the spots I remembered seeing homeless people on the corners, but there wasn’t a person to be found.
Really, God? Really?
Surely the Creator of the Universe could direct me to the right corner to find someone to bless with my Egg McMuffin. Or direct the right person to the corner I was rounding at that very moment. Certainly there was a hungry soul in Anchorage who could benefit from the now-cooling contents of my paper bag. Why on earth wasn’t He making this happen? Was it a cruel joke?
God Didn’t Need My Egg McMuffin
I got home and cried.
I bitterly choked down the sandwich I hadn’t even wanted so it wouldn’t go to waste, getting angrier at God by the minute. I felt betrayed, like God didn’t care about my prayers – or worse yet that there was no one “up there” to betray me in the first place.
The following weeks and months were hard, and I can’t honestly say I learned anything. I jumped right back into ministry, friendships and busyness that were like a balm to my wounded self-worth. As long as I was “doing,” I was valuable. I was no longer working outside of the home, but I had kids to tend to and ministry at church and people to help along the way, so that counted for something, right?
It wasn’t until years later that I realized what God had been doing that lonely morning, one of the few times in my life when the thought that God might not be real has crossed my mind.
I believe now that God was trying to tell me that He doesn’t need my Egg McMuffin.
He never has.
God Created the Universe
He has infinite resources at His fingertips. If He wanted, He could provide food in an instant to all the homeless people in Anchorage (I actually have a friend who has been homeless in Anchorage who tells of God providing her with food in a pretty miraculous way).
I had been (and honestly continue to struggle with) assigning myself value as a person – more specifically as a Christian – according to what I thought I was doing for God.
Back to Martha
“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 10:41-42 (NIV)
Jesus chastised Martha for fussing over him rather than sitting at His feet and just being with Him. Surely He feels the same about my fussing and fretting and constant doing. This is not to say that houses don’t need to be cleaned, food need not be cooked, children cared for and ministry done. These are all the works that flow out of a life focused on and rooted in Jesus:
What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.James 2:14-19 (NIV)
Works and Worth
It’s not about the works themselves; it’s all about the source of the works. It’s about the heart condition of the doer. I do believe my desire to minister and to help people is rooted in love for Jesus and the Holy Spirit in me. But just like he often does, the enemy can twist good, pure things into impure, flesh-driven things. That’s where I get derailed. Elevating service and ministry and tasks to idol-status. Allowing those golden calves to draw my gaze away from Jesus, the “author and perfecter of my faith.” Forgetting that I am beloved simply because I am His. Resting in that, instead of striving constantly to prove myself.
So now, as I find myself in another transition I’m struggling with my self-worth again. I’ve realized over the last couple of years that I’m no longer a “little kid mom.” My children are 7, 10 and 15 and are increasingly independent. I was fine when I was changing diapers, making meals, going to play dates and hiding behind the “doing”. Remember? I’m a doer. But now I’m out of my comfort zone as all three are needing more shepherding and managing, teaching and letting go.
I’m not great at managing. I’m even worse at letting go.
We are All Learning
So as I look around at what I have to show for myself, I can’t even hide behind clean diapers and all the checked boxes of little kid motherhood. Now I’m actually not being a good parent if I do all of the “doing” for them. In fact, I’m doing them a disservice. Training is uncomfortable for me. It feels like a form of conflict which I avoid like the plague. Delegating and managing…wow, those words are even scarier than training. So here I am in transition, feeling like I can no longer work my way into God’s good graces (or anyone else’s) when it comes to my family. Like I’m not measuring up.
So I think back to the cold, rubbery Egg McMuffin I reluctantly ate almost 9 years ago. But I don’t think of it as a bad thing. Now, it’s a symbol of the futility of trying to work myself into God’s love and approval. It makes me thankful because today, instead of sitting here crying my eyes out and doubting God, I can hear His voice clearly and kindly saying:
I don’t want your Egg McMuffin. I just want you.
The invitation Jesus gives says it best:
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.Matthew 11:28-30 (NIV)
Join the Conversation
How about you? Whether your struggle is with self-worth or something altogether different, we all have burdens we bear that need lifting. Where do you need to cease striving and find rest for your soul? Share with us in the comments!