By Larry ShortIt's been a VERY BUSY spring. Perhaps that's the reason God has been working on me to ensure I have sufficient MARGIN in my life. Margin = space for Him to write on the pages of my book.
Busyness -- seeking to do as many good things as possible rather than focusing on the best things -- is the enemy of joy. It crowds out the oxygen in our lives that God's Word needs to take root. And it also robs us of opportunities to show God's compassion to those lying in the ditches alongside the highway of life, depriving both them and us of God's blessings in the process.
Two weekends ago I was asked to preach at our church. (You can listen to the 36-minute sermon, if you'd like, here -- MP3 audio, 9mb.) I asked our senior pastor, who was going in for eye surgery, what he'd like me to preach on. "Whatever the Lord wants," was his response.
Good idea, I thought, so I asked God what I should preach on. I received as an answer, a question in response: "What do you think YOU need to hear?" I hate it when that happens.
But I knew immediately the answer to the Lord's question ... I really need to work on my margin. Of course the story of Jesus at Martha's house, with Martha's sister Mary sitting at his feet and listening to Him while Mary worked in the kitchen, popped into mind. So I preached on Luke 10:38-42.
Since I was preaching on margin, my #2 goal was not to go overtime (as I have a tendency to do ... I'm not near as short as my name implies). I'm pleased to report I finished with 4 minutes to spare.
But that meant I had to leave some key material on the cutting room floor. So I thought I would share some of it here.
One of the things that really impressed me as I studied what Scripture has to say about margin, came from Pastor Mark Driscoll from Seattle's Mars Hill Church. He points out that if we want to understand how God designed things to be, we should go back to the beginning, before we messed everything up by our rebellion.
And he asks: Does this story in Luke 10 mean we're supposed to be all Mary and no Martha? Clearly not. (You can hear me breathing a sigh of relief here, since I'm like 90% Martha and 10% Mary.) God created Adam, Genesis 2:15 says, and put him in the Garden of Eden "to work it and to take care of it." We have a job to do. Work is good. God worked 6 days, and rested on the 7. Did God really need to rest? I doubt it. Perhaps He was trying to tell us something.
So Adam was supposed to focus on the task of taking care of the garden. (I'm sure later he would receive other tasks as well.) But was this his first and most important assignment? No.
Genesis 3:8 says that God Himself walked in the Garden in the cool of the day (in the morning), looking to connect with His creation. His first goal for us was relationship. Likewise, for Martha AND Mary, there was a time to work, to prepare for Christ's arrival. But, once He got there, their first priority should have been sitting at His feet and receiving from Him! Mary left Martha to work in the kitchen alone. Mary chose the better part, and "it would not be taken away from her" (such time worshipping Him, "being still and knowing that He is God," is one of those few things mentioned in the Bible which will endure from this life into the next).
After Adam had his God-time, then there would be plenty of time left over for him to talk to the plants. Or whatever it was he was supposed to do to manage a self-watering, weed-free garden environment.
Adam was to be Mary first ... and then Martha. This is the pattern with God. He always asks for our firstfruits (time, money, talent, whatever) ... the best off the top. What's left over then gets distributed among other responsibilities as He leads.
Driscoll also notes that God created the week like this: Sunday is the first day on the calendar ... followed by Monday. Sunday we Christians dedicate to sitting at God's feet. Monday morning, we go to work. Many people act as if Sunday is part of the week-end ... but it is the week-beginning. Receive first, then work.
So, I would be much better off if I were 90% Mary, and 10% Martha; than 90% Martha, and 10% Mary. But, for now, I think I'll just make 51% Mary / 49% Martha my goal! Please pray for me!!!
How about you? What portion of you is Martha, and what portion is Mary? And what changes, if any, do you intend to make to become more the person God desires you to be?