I suffer from “Martha” syndrome. (Yes, the Martha in the Bible that the Lord so loving corrected for her skewed priorities of serving over sitting at His feet). I’m reminded of my proclivity for busyness this time of year in particular with all of the gatherings and celebrations. I am apt to stay in the kitchen, preparing food or cleaning dishes, rather than staying seated at the table with the rest of the guests. Sure, part of that is due to my upbringing (my parents always taught me to be the first to offer to clean up and help the host), but now it has become a culturally acceptable excuse to hide myself from others.
Confession: making small talk gives me incredible anxiety.
A few days ago, I was talking with a new friend here in Nashville as we were preparing to go to a “Friendsgiving” celebration. In an attempt to be transparent, I shared with her my inner turmoil about meeting all these new people. Earlier that afternoon, we talked about a new Bible study that I had started (“Uninvited” by Lysa TerKeurst), and how rejection was something deeply rooted in my heart. Because of that, I am extremely fearful of how I appear to others. I’m constantly worried about the impression I give off, and analyze every word I say to others until I drive myself crazy. When I busy myself with acts of service, I provide myself an “out”, allowing me to escape from having to be present with others. I become too busy to talk, and I no longer have to worry about saying the wrong thing or feeling excluded by others. Serving becomes a defense mechanism.
Rewind to a few months ago. I was spending time with the Lord one evening, praying about my next step and if He really was leading me to go to Hawaii for missions school. Instead of answering my questions, He showed me a picture of my heart that rocked me to the core. Here is my journal entry detailing this encounter:
I’m walking in the desert towards a distant city on the horizon, completely exhausted and struggling through this crazy sandstorm. Jesus is down this hill on my right, by this peaceful pond, completely untouched by the storm. He asks me where I’m going. I told Him I’m going towards Him, towards the city to be His light.
He says, “What if I’m not over there?”
I reply, “I have to keep doing Your will, or I won’t make it in the Kingdom.
He asks, “What is the Father’s will?”
Lord, what do I make of all this? I’m so focused on performance and works, scared that I won’t make it if I’m not always doing or giving something. I’ve believed that rest is selfish…
This exchange with the Lord really rocked me. I know the Biblical mandates to go, to preach, and to serve; however, I forget the instruction of the Lord in John 15 that commands me to “Abide in Him” and “Abide in His love”. In my performance-driven mind, “abide” meant to be focused on Him and His word, and to put it into practice. However, the picture that the Lord showed me in response to my weary heart following an incredibly difficult season in Montana led me to look up the true definition of “abide.”
The word “abide” in Greek is “Menō”, and it means “to remain, to continue to be present, to wait for, to be held.”
In my American, pull yourself up by your boot straps, mentality, I’ve disregarded the first part of God’s mandate. In order to serve others, I have to be filled and rested in Him. I cannot act on God’s calling until I know His character, which is discovered in true intimacy with Him. To abide in Him is to be present, to be still long enough for Him to hold me. I’m of little use to others if I’m not being filled with Him first.
I’m learning how to be like Mary, while still serving others. I want to sit AND serve – in that order! I’m learning how to let my guard down, knowing that I’m already fully accepted and completely loved by God, and I don’t have to make excuses with Him to try and avoid intimacy. I can just be present with others, confident in myself and unaffected by their opinions of me, because my heart is already overflowing with love and acceptance from the only One I want to please.
Abiding with Him is the key to freedom from people pleasing, performance-based love, and fear of rejection.
This Thanksgiving, as you gather with family and friends, remember to be filled with Him first. Let Him overwhelm your heart until there’s no room for fear. Abide.