“Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”Luke 10:38-42, ESV
I have always been a Martha. Like I discussed in my last post, “Spiritual Bumbles: A Planner’s Guide to Trusting God”, I pride myself on productivity, and there is always more than enough to be done. I say that I work hard to serve other people, just like Martha, which is true, but unfortunately there is a little bit of pesky people-pleasing and a need to earn love and be liked mixed in there too. Part of my tendency to strive for the approval of others includes my reputation as a yes-woman; I really struggle to say no when someone asks something of me, even if I don’t really have the time or capacity to do it well or at all. This often results in a lot of stress, anxiety, neglect of myself, and, worst of all, the ones I love most, counteracting the original goal of earning the adoration of those around me by filling my plate to its absolute brim.
This is a problem, and one that I believed whole-heartedly to have made progress in improving within myself. I have gotten better about setting boundaries, allowing myself the option of saying “no”, giving myself grace when I can’t accomplish everything or fulfill everyone’s requests, and creating more space in my life for the things and people that matter most. However, sometimes I slip, and recently I’ve found myself staring up from a pit of overwhelming to-dos that I’ve unfortunately dug for myself.
Part of the issue is that usually most of the things that I take to task are good, worthy, and sometimes necessary endeavors that absolutely have the potential to add value to my life and others’. For me, lately this has looked like planning my sweet sister’s gender reveal and baby shower, volunteering to single-handedly organize an entire marriage ministry event for my church, participating in worship team, blogging, taking care of Irie, making sure my house is clean and my laundry is done, grocery shopping, exercising regularly, getting plenty of sleep at night, spending time with Ben, helping out some extra clients at work, filling out job applications, trying to fit in quiet time, and what feels like so much more. Many of these things are non-negotiables, some are fun and exciting, all are good. But this week, I’ve kept thinking about how I’m exhausted and feeling overwhelmed every day; I’ve even had a few tears leak out of my eyes in moments of stress. But isn’t this the season of life when I’m supposed to have the least amount of responsibility? Won’t it only get harder to balance all the demands the older I get and the more I have to juggle? What will I do then?
Sadly, the results of my current season of “stretched too thin” haven’t been so great. I’m trying to help extra clients at work, but that means I’m often working well into the evenings and am getting farther and farther behind on my required filing and paperwork. I planned and threw my sister’s gender reveal (she’s having a girl, woohoo!), but felt guilty because I hadn’t been able to give it the thought it deserved until a few days before. I’ve missed the last three weeks of worship team rehearsal and was 25 minutes late to tonight’s. My exercise routine has withered to about two days a week, my quiet time is sporadic at best, and I’m literally doing 75% of the planning and organizing for my church event that’s TOMORROW, well, TOMORROW. Ben’s had to pick up my slack at home, taking care of the laundry and dishes and making dinner for himself most nights, which is fine and he’s given me so much grace, but it still doesn’t seem all that fair. Irie’s walks aren’t as regular as they once were. Ben and I hardly get to spend real, quality time together in the evenings between cooking and eating dinner and preparing for the next day and getting in bed at a reasonable hour, and that takes its tole on a marriage after really no time at all. In the end, I’m doing all the things, but I’m doing almost none of them well, and all it leaves me feeling is tired and guilty and anxious and, again, overwhelmed.
But, as always, God is finding a way to draw beauty out of all of my silly mess. His Spirit is causing me to stop and take note of the way I’m feeling and struggling right now so that I’ll remember what the pit feels like in the future when I’m tempted to load up my plate again. He’s humbling me and reminding me that I can’t do this all by myself, that I’m not designed to, and that in my weakness, He is made strong. He’s helping me learn how to prioritize and understand which tasks and areas of my life are most important and deserve my focus and attention, like my relationship with Him, my marriage, my relationships with friends and family, my church. God’s message is clear: love Him and love people, and the rest will fall into place. I don’t have to earn my way to love or approval, at least not with the people who truly care for me, and overloading myself only creates barriers to being the best version of myself and effectively carrying out God’s purposes for me in each area of my life. Ultimately, what God values most, as he explained to busy, well-intentioned Martha, is simply sitting at His feet, which not only allows us to rest in His goodness, but to learn how to be more like Jesus.
So what do I do now that I’m sitting smack dab in the middle of the pit, feeling stretched too thin with no end in sight? I finish what I started, I hold fast to the commitments I’ve made in this season of life, and once I’ve made it through each one, I’ll do my best to hold that space for the good, necessary non-negotiables instead of replacing accomplished tasks with new ones. Eventually, I’ll climb my way out of the pit and back into the light of day, then I’ll bask in the goodness of the fresh air and the sunshine and re-establish those valuable boundaries. I’ll pull some “nos” out of the reserves and use them to protect the precious things in my life that need tending to, and thank God for His faithfulness in lending me His strength, seeing me through, and working it all together for good, just as He promised.
Friends, I covet your prayers in this season of stress and discomfort that I’ve created for myself. My true desire is to serve God and love others well so that they might see Him in me, but I get a little lost sometimes. However, I’m reminded daily that the Lord has not forsaken me, and the victory is already won! No bad day or busy schedule can rob me of that truth and joy, so today I claim it for myself and pray it over you as well.
If you find yourself in this same kind of season or space where you’re feeling like it’s all just too much and you’ve said “yes” to too many things, take heart and claim the hope of the One True King as your own. He’ll get you to the other side in one piece, and I can just about guarantee that you’ll be stronger, wiser, and even more beautiful on the other side.