“Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.” -Luke 10:41-42, NRSV
The picture you see above is of the kitchen I was tasked to clean up the other night, TWO HOURS before this picture was taken. And, unlike my usual procrastinating self, I actually wanted to DO IT THEN. I wanted to get it done so I could go to the Y to work out, or watch the movie on Netflix I was trying to finish, or research trekking poles, etc. But here’s the thing…as I rolled up my sleeves to dive into this mess (only partially shown), a three year old girl asked me, “Daddy, can we do camping?” Let me translate…”do camping” at 6:45pm in February means light a fire in the fireplace, turn off all the lights, and climb into sleeping bags to watch and listen – mostly to the fire, but also to each other, maybe a story with a flashlight…you get the drift. Anyway, I didn’t really want to “do camping” in this national-holiday-never-before-happened-type moment of ME wanting to CLEAN up on the front side of bedtime. And so I had a choice.
Now, you can’t see it from this picture, probably, but there are embers still burning in the fire in the far distance. There are also two sleeping bags tossed on the floor beneath that red couch. And I know you can’t smell this picture, but if you could, you would smell wood smoke. I did “do camping, ” and I suppose I chose the better thing, the thing that will not be taken away from the collective memory banks of father and daughter.
Okay, that probably sounds a little dramatic, right? As if I am comparing “doing camping” with Jesus showing up to give a sermon in my living room. So let me be clear – they are not the same thing. Jesus in anyone’s living room is a bigger deal. I am also not saying, “Blessed are the ones with messy kitchens, much more than the planners and doers.” Sometimes they are; sometimes they are not. What I am saying is that it all depends upon the situation. It all depends upon the choice before us. Sometimes I have to say no to playing princesses or having tea because I do need to get something done, or because there is a greater need, or because I can’t stay up an hour later to clean this kitchen and that means my wife who is getting a nasty cold will have to pile it on the things she has to do. I did clean the kitchen. And my hunch is Mary was more than willing to help Martha with dinner too. And I imagine Jesus and his followers did want to eat eventually. But really, couldn’t it wait an hour?
Every day, for all of us, we are faced with thousands of choices. And so often we are so stressed about what is coming next that we never take the opportunity to pay attention to the now – to bring our focus to what is right in front of us, to be willing and open to the possibility that the small choices we make every moment add up to a much bigger definition of how our life will be lived. As Pastor Paula asked last Sunday, “What are we practicing?” I find it so easy to get stuck in what I have to do, and then put my head down in a rigid drive toward the goal. That way I am in control. That way I am free of risk. That way I don’t have to interact or be influenced by others. And I get to be defined by the safe parameters I have set. But I will miss “doing camping,” I will miss the perspective of the other that will open me up to new possibility. And I will certainly miss Jesus, even if he is standing in my own dang living room.
As we stand on the doorstep of Lent, we will be reminded that we come from dust and return to it – sobering words! AND YET, we will also be invited to walk with the one who breathed into that dust and made us. We will be invited to be challenged. We will be invited to listen anew. We will be challenged to follow. And, if we pay close attention, we just might find ourselves being changed – trivial parts dying and meaningful life rising. And that, my friends, can never be taken away from us.