February 8, 2012
A Balanced Life
Now as they went on their way, he entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet and listened to what he was saying. But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to him and asked, "Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me." But the Lord answered her, "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 10:38-42, NRSV).
Then, six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus was who had been dead, whom He had raised from the dead. There they made Him a supper; and Martha served, but Lazarus was one of those who sat at the table with Him. Then Mary took a pound of very costly oil of spikenard, anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped His feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the oil (John 1:3, NRSV)
Friend to Friend
As I watched the movie “Twister” for the first time, I was reminded of the small Texas town where I grew up. Tornadoes were a common occurrence in Brownwood. In fact, we sometimes had “tornado drills” in order to prepare for the next storm. When ominous dark clouds began to gather and the possibility of tornadoes increased, warning sirens screamed through that quiet little town, sending every man, woman and child scurrying for safety. Our safe place was an old, musty storm cellar in the back yard where my family huddled until the “all clear” siren sounded.
Life is filled with storms and twisters – overcrowded schedules, impossible demands, unrealistic expectations, emotional bankruptcy, physical exhaustion and personality conflicts. Chaos often reigns, spinning emotions out of control. Frustration, confusion, stress, and darkness are all too familiar companions. During those turbulent times, my first reaction is to run and hide until the storm passes over, but I have come to two realizations; first, there will always be another storm and second, what I must do is learn how to prepare for storms before they hit. Storm preparation begins with a balanced life.
Most women I know constantly struggle with this issue of balance. We find it difficult to set boundaries, fail to establish margins of time for the unplanned or unexpected, and unwittingly surrender our God ordained priorities to the empty, vain addiction of just “doing the next thing.” Balance becomes a casualty of this ongoing battle. Frustration, failure and darkness prosper in an imbalanced life, thriving on the vacuum of clear purpose and sure direction. The pit of despair is a common destination for those who refuse to measure and balance the sometimes overwhelming demands of work, home, family, friends, and personal growth. Frenzy and confusing darkness will reign until a holy balance is firmly entrenched in its place. It is a balance only God can bring and is wonderfully illustrated through the lives of two women in the Bible, Mary and Martha. Mary and Martha present a profoundly simple but practical three-step plan for living a balanced life of power and purpose.
Now I have to admit that Martha is a girl after my own heart. A perfectionist and recognized by all who knew her as disciplined, strong-willed, energetic and practical, Martha seemed to know who she was and where she was going. Because of her leadership in the community, people listened when she spoke. Martha was single, financially secure and owned her own home which she shared with her sister, Mary, and their brother, Lazerus. They were a close family, living in a small town named Bethany located two miles from Jerusalem. Martha was a wonderful cook, her home clean and always in order. In fact, she might well have been considered the “Betty Crocker” of Bethany. Martha had the gift of hospitality and entertained often, freely welcoming friends as well as strangers into her home. Religious leaders, business executives, and virtually anyone in need, including her close friend, Jesus, knew they had an open invitation to this home. Martha seemed to be an intense woman with deep feelings and sure convictions. She loved truth and was quick to share her strong beliefs, the mark of an unwavering faith. Martha certainly had faults just as we do. I am convinced that, at times, she may have missed some of the higher moments of life because she was “too busy.” Sound familiar?
Mary, the sister of Martha, is an entirely different story. She lived for the higher moments in life. A free spirit and strong individualist, Mary probably saw little value in material wealth, a clean house, cooked meals and strict schedules. Nothing could compare to the cherished treasures of quiet, peace and freedom. I don’t think Mary missed many of the “Kodak moments” of life. I suspect she was an avid learner who thrived on anything that compelled her to think and reflect. Mary was almost childlike in her hunger for truth - especially spiritual truth and like her sister, felt things deeply. Sometimes those feelings drove her to do things that others could not understand. For example, it was unusual for a woman to sit among men. But Mary did. She sat at the feet of Jesus while He taught His disciples. Lost in the wonder of hearing new truth, Mary seemed oblivious to her critics and did not appear to notice or even care what people around her thought. She found it easy to abandon herself to those she loved and thrived on the relationships in her life. Relationships with people like the man named Jesus. Mary was brave. To go against the “norm” by daring to be so different and perhaps even live in the shadow of her very successful and highly regarded sister took courage. Mary was human and imperfect. To some, she may have seemed lazy and flighty or even given the perception of being a procrastinator.
Mary is often considered the spiritual one while Martha is thought to be the not so spiritual one. We tend to look at their lives and say we should be like Mary. However, I want us to realize that the lives of both women offer invaluable life lessons and truths about balance. God is not the author of confusion nor does He create chaos, setting His children up to drown in the raging seas of darkness, burnout and exhaustion. We do a great job of that all on our own. But we can learn important lessons from Mary and Martha, apply them to our lives today, and experience a balance that will bring peace, purpose and power to our crazed world.
Father, help me learn to cherish and make time to simply sit at Your feet and be in Your presence. At the same time, Lord, show me how to live a life of integrity in which I am a woman of my word. Teach me how to discipline my steps and invest my time in a way that pleases You and honors the plan You have for my life. Only You can bring a holy balance to my life as I surrender my agenda and every priority to Your perfect plan. I do that right now.
In Jesus’ name,
Now It’s Your Turn
I encourage you to set aside time this week to spend in solitude. Examine your life in the light of balance. What priorities are obvious? What areas are out of balance? How has this imbalance affected your life? What changes do you need to make in order to live a balanced life of purpose?
More from the Girlfriends
Is your life balanced?If you are like me, you need all the help you can get in maintaining a balanced life. My E-Bible Study, Time: Friend or Foe, offers three important steps you can take in learning how to balance your time and your life.
Be sure to check out the FREE MP3son Mary’s website.
Need help getting the Word of God into your life?Check out Mary’s Weekly Online Bible Study, When I Am Afraid, to learn how to face, deal with and surrender your fears to God.
Are you ready to begin a new faith adventure?Get a copy of our new book, Trusting God.
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Originally published Wednesday, 08 February 2012.