Afterthoughts: Reflecting on the Road Just Traveled

Capri, Italy

Capri, Italy

Some people barrel through life in a constant state of ablaze-for-what-comes-next.

Some people live very well in the moment, but when the moment is gone, so goes its power. No lesson learned. No lingering sense of the holy in what just happened.

And some people put down roots – deep and extensive roots – in the events and relationships of yesterday, never entertaining the possibility that new adventures may spark important ideas or birth exciting connections with today. Maybe even with tomorrow.

As for me, I want to be like Mary.

Upon her baby’s birth, after the angel choir had summoned the shepherds to the humble birthplace for worship, Mary wasn’t dwelling on ‘what happens next?’ She wasn’t whining about having given birth in the straw with animal-onlookers; not complaining about inadequate medical care. And from all accounts, we don’t get the feeling that Mary was cringing at the way her story – and that of her son – was unfolding. Nothing in the narrative suggests a Mary who would have preferred to go back in time to a simpler, more ‘normal’ and less mind-blowing existence.

In fact, we get the feeling that Mary was all-in for this God-created adventure! How do we know? Luke 2:19.

But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. (NIV)

But Mary treasured these things and continued to think about them. (NCV)

But Mary was treasuring up all these things in her heart and meditating on them. (HCSB)

Mary continued to think about these things, trying to understand them. (ERV)

Mary committed these things to memory and considered them carefully. (CEB)

But Mary was keeping within herself all these things (sayings), weighing and pondering them in her heart. (AMP)

Mary treasured and pondered and meditated on the events she found herself living. Not only while the mysteries unfolded, but later, too – committing these things to memory and weighing them. Considering them. And my personal favorite – making Mary human and limited, just like me trying to understand them.

What just happened?

We ask this question because the lives we live matter. The words that are spoken and the people we meet, the adventures (and even the mis-adventures) we experience – all of it has the potential to shape us into the best parent, the most thoughtful friend, the most faithful expression of the presence of God in a world where pondering and treasuring are nothing more than ancient practices found in the dusty pages of a rarely opened Book.

Now, I am clearly not the mother of Jesus, but I am the mother of Joffrey and Britton, and I have been the wife of Dallas for nearly 25 years. My life’s adventures can’t really be compared with Mary’s, though that is often what we do, isn’t it? Compare our lives with others?

My family has just returned home from a three week European vacation. Three countries. Eight hotel rooms. Trains. Planes. Taxis. Boats. Buses. Mountains. Oceans. Rain. Snow. And people.

While living this recent adventure, we had to stay in the moment – there was so much to see, and it was ALL new! It wasn’t until I was sitting uncomfortably on the 12 hour home-bound flight that I began to ponder the events of the previous weeks, remembering a word spoken here or a mind-picture there, weighing and mulling over and trying to understand what had just happened…

Because this adventure – this road we’ve just traveled – matters.

At face value, it was a fun trip! We did lots of things, saw places we have only read about in books or seen in movies, met new and interesting people and were reunited with family and friends that we haven’t seen for years.

But I want to be like Mary. I want to hold onto what has happened for awhile, turn it over in my mind, and see what happens. I want to be teachable, but I am also a teacher – and I want to share some of these Afterthoughts with you.

Will you walk with me for awhile, down this road I’ve just traveled?

After all, one person’s Afterthought could very well be another one’s treasure. Just ask Mary.

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The Great Efficiency (a PINK Tuesday post)

woman

Image by Alessandro Vannucci via Flickr

 

The Proverbs 31 woman is doing me no favors today.

While she was up before the sun, preparing breakfast for her family and organizing her day, I was nestled under cozy covers, recovering from another week of seeking that elusive state of being: The Great Efficiency.

What exactly is it that tugs at the heart of a woman, convincing her that there is no higher goal than to be eternally busy? Are we reading the scriptures correctly when we picture this industrious gem of a woman as she appears in Proverbs chapter 31 – the epitome of relational genius – famed possessor of The Great Efficiency?

We are told that she is trusted completely by her husband because of her goodness and generosity toward him. She is a bargain shopper and finder of treasures, both in the stores and in the real estate market. She is a gardener and homemaker who is never too busy to reach out and help the poor. She is moving from sun-up to sun-down, and apparently even then she’s in no hurry to call it a night. She wakes up ready to roll and burns the midnight oil, and somehow she always manages to face tomorrow with a smile.

Her words are filled with wisdom and her work is always worthwhile. She never doubts her usefulness or her importance in the life of her family. She is predictably kind, perpetually observant and possibly the most elegant woman who ever lived.

When our households – like hers – run like a well-oiled machine and our scheduled lives flow effortlessly from Sabbath to Sabbath, will we have arrived?

Is this how they will know we are Christians – by our smiling faces from behind sewing machines; the click of knitting needles in our nicely manicured hands?

Is this the woman God created ME to be?

Part of me wants to blame Ms. Proverbs 31 for the annoying Marthaic impulse that pulls me down this path. After all, wasn’t it Martha who inadvertently earned poster child status for the cause of The Great Efficiency when she made her famous scene during Jesus’ visit to her home, admonishing her sister Mary for an apparent lack of interest in the ways of the Proverbs 31 woman?

If Martha’s dedication to running an efficient household and making her guests feel at home was actually the best choice, the way to be, then how are we to take Jesus’ response to her temper tantrum?

“‘Martha, Martha’ the Lord answered, ‘you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.’” Luke 10:41-42

Who told Martha that it was more important to be efficient than attentive?

Who tells us that we can somehow be all and do all, for all (and still have something left over to offer at the feet of the Lord)?

You see, the problem with The Great Efficiency is that we come to see ourselves as capable. And equipped. And completely able, by our own efforts, to meet the needs of those around us.

As we master living efficient lives, the danger is that we will begin to believe that we are the solution to the problems around us. If we just work harder; if we just put in longer hours; if we just set our minds to it, we can not only do it, but we can do it all.

Every day I watch the women around me strive to live efficient lives. I watch them work multiple jobs to put food on the table in single-parent households. I watch them give up carnivals and cable in order to pay the rent and clothe their growing children. I watch them juggle To-Do Lists which, by virtue of their length, are disappointments just waiting to happen. I watch and I listen, and sometimes I hear words like these:

“I had been feeling frustrated and weighed down lately by society’s expectations of me: “Put your son in after school care and go get a job”, “quit needing charity and go get a job”, “work 9 to 5”, etc.

The reality of it is that I have a job. I have many, many jobs.  My first job is being a mother. The time and dedication and schedule that I am able to give to my child is not found in a larger paycheck… is not found in fulfilling my parents dreams… is not found by fitting into the box of society’s norm; rather, it is found right here in our home.  It is evident in that I am able to put his needs for consistency, structure, schedule, and routine above conveniences and material things… it is evident in his eagerness!

So it IS all a matter of perspective.  And it IS difficult to keep appreciating my gifts and joys when society wants to tell me I am poor, when society wants to shame me for having shut-off notices… I have a renewed perspective that each late notice is my reminder that I am staying true to myself and I am meeting my child’s needs.”

Whatever your wake-up call, it’s time to expose the lie of The Great Efficiency and embrace The Great Sufficiency of Christ.

I’m not enough, but HE IS.

I can never do it all, but HE CAN.

My light may go out before the day’s work is done, but even as I put my To-Do List to sleep, “He will quiet (me) with His love.” Zephaniah 3:17

His grace IS ENOUGH for me.