22 September 2010

What Is the Good Part for Me?

My life is harried and hectic. Admittedly, I am a workaholic who is probably (take out the "probably"...) addicted to chaos and stress.

And I am burnt out and exhausted, with "miles to go before I sleep" and another business trip only 2 days away.

On Monday when I was visiting with my doctor, I asked what her recommendation was for the stomach pains that brought me in to see her. Her prescription: "You need to slow down and get a new job. If you continue the way you are, you will kill yourself."

Not exactly what I was expecting to hear!

Yet, she was exactly right.

The problem is that I don't know how to save myself from this harried life I live. I work so much because I depend on myself to take care of my needs. I don't have a husband or anyone else to help me pay the bills, clean the house, do the laundry, run errands for me, or any of that. And although there are friends who would be willing to help, it rarely occurs to me to ask for help; the thought honestly doesn't even cross my mind. When I do feel inspired to ask for help, it actually causes me additional stress because I worry how my request will be received (am I imposing too much on someone else?). Further, one of the (many) reasons I avoid relationships that might lead to marriage is because I fear giving up my stressful life--one that I adequately navigate on my own--to trust someone else to take care of me.

I have plenty of excuses for why I remain where I am. And I understand, more than I want to right now, how Martha felt that night when Jesus visited and she was "cumbered about much serving."

Sister Bonnie D. Parkin related the story this way:

On one occasion Martha was making dinner and, as the scripture says, "was cumbered about much serving." In other words, she was stressed out!

Mary, on the other hand, "sat at Jesus' feet, and heard his word," while Martha became increasingly upset that no one was helping her. Does that sound familiar? Do you think she was thinking, "Why is Mary sitting there while I'm sweating over this stove?" So Martha turned to Jesus and said, "Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me."

The Lord's gentle invitation to Martha may have surprised her. "Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her."

The Savior's response strikingly clarified what mattered most. On that evening in Martha's home, the good part was not in the kitchen; it was at the Lord's feet. Dinner could wait.

Like Mary, I hunger to feast at the Savior's feet, while, like Martha, I need to somehow find the laundry room floor, empty my in-box, and serve my husband something other than cold pizza. I have 15 grandchildren whose tender little spirits and daily challenges I want to better understand, yet I also have a slightly demanding Church calling! I don't have lots of time. Like all of you, I have to choose. We all are trying to choose the good part which cannot be taken from us, to balance the spiritual and the temporal in our lives. Wouldn't it be easy if we were choosing between visiting teaching or robbing a bank? Instead, our choices are often more subtle. We must choose between many worthy options.

Mary and Martha are you and me; they are every sister in Relief Society. These two loved the Lord and wanted to show that love. On this occasion, it seems to me that Mary expressed her love by hearing His word, while Martha expressed hers by serving Him.

Martha thought she was doing right and that her sister should be helping her.

I don't believe the Lord was saying there are Marthas and there are Marys. Jesus did not dismiss Martha's concern, but instead redirected her focus by saying choose "that good part." And what is that? The prophet Lehi taught that we "should look to the great Mediator, and hearken unto his great commandments; and be faithful unto his words, and choose eternal life, according to the will of his Holy Spirit."

The one thing that is needful is to choose eternal life. We choose daily. As we seek, listen, and follow the Lord, we are encircled in the arms of His love—a love that is pure.

-- Sister Bonnie D. Parkin, "Choosing Charity: That Good Part," General Relief Society Meeting, September 2003, emphasis added.
What is the "good part" for me to choose? How can I more regularly choose the Lord instead of choosing busy-ness and my workaholic tendencies?

I don't even know what the "good part" would look like for me. How do I balance the "good part" with what is "necessary" (i.e., full-time employment for me right now, responsibilities, etc). The type of employment I have enables me to daily be in the Lord's service, to directly affect one of the three-fold mission of the Church. I am grateful for that. But I've wondered if work is all I am good for. Is it ever okay for me to just rest? Would it be okay for Martha-like me, to step out of the kitchen and sit at the Lord's feet and listen, even just for a few moments? I haven't ever felt "permission" to do this--to do anything besides work--so I figuratively stay in the kitchen and keep working, feeling resentful that the work to do is never-ending.

Choosing the good part doesn't necessarily mean being unemployed (that would stress me out even more, especially now that I have a mortgage!). I think that choosing the good part involves allowing ourselves to follow the inclinations of our hearts, to serve others freely, and minister to those around us--putting people and relationships above deadlines and "to do" lists.

Easier said than done, especially for me.

Yet, I know it is true. I know that I need to choose the better part--to choose relationships over raises and people over "productivity." The question is, how can I do this?

1 comment:

  1. Dearest Cousin, study the Bible. Read His Word every day. Build time into each day to do it and make it routine. Just sit, relax, breathe, read, and let Him talk to you.

    Join a Bible study group that meets weekly after work. A casual group of people who study the Word and discuss it according to how it is effecting their lives. Conversation, snacks, laughter, fellowship.