In this 21st century way of life, it’s easy to believe that we have to keep running, keep doing, keep achieving in order to fulfill the plans and purposes God has for us. Personally, as a scientist, my mind is always on overdrive with lists and protocols that are prepared days or weeks in advance.
But even with the best preparation and planning, I have often found myself in constant motion, feeling like I am getting nowhere in a tired heap of frustration. Sometimes my dad jokingly calls this out in me, saying I’m the ‘woman in motion’ because I rarely stop moving from thing to thing.
Certainly, some of these daily activities are just a part of life. You might even say it’s warranted. However, when we constantly live ‘on the go’, something gets lost in translation. I believe this state of being causes us to neglect the beauty of stopping. It is in these moments—the ones where we may not be doing anything on our to-do list—that something amazing happens.
The story of Martha and Mary in the Bible gives us the perfect depiction of this prioritization. In Luke 10:38-42, we see the daily choice we face play out so beautifully between two sisters who are hosting Jesus and his 12 disciples. Martha opened her home to Jesus. This was a big deal. Imagine the food and prep to care for all 13 of them. I get intimidated making dinner for a party of 5! Her sister, Mary, was there too. But Mary wasn’t helping. She just sat at Jesus’ feet.
This is the difference between doing and being. I mean, Mary just sat there! If it was me and my sister, this would have driven me bonkers! And it drove Martha nuts too.
Martha (aka Andrea), got upset, and said, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” I am confident that she expected Jesus to side with her. How could he not? She was serving and this was hospitality. Are we not called to do both?
But Jesus did not support her perspective in this instance.
“Martha, Martha”, the Lord answered, ‘you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed – indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”
So, let’s ask ourselves what would happen if we sit down and stop for a second? What if we leave these “important things” in the hands of God and just be with Him? To do lists deferred, productivity meters declined, accomplishments incomplete, wasting time, or fear of not having enough time—these are some of the false narratives we can so easily ascribe to. Living in the age of YOLO on one hand can unleash the spontaneity in us, but on the other hand it can pressure us into thinking we have to fill every second of every day or we just didn’t fulfill our life.
This is a lie.
As I write this, I am reminded of how the Lord commands us often in the Bible to “be still” and “do not fret” (Ps. 37).
Resting and being does not equate to wasting time. It is very much an intentional choice and it is wrapped in the importance of seeking the Lord and guidance from the Holy Spirit.
But most of all, it gives us the opportunity to hear from the Lord. To listen to His direction and to see the next steps clearly.
When we are moving, we may think we are seeing what we “need to do.” But the issue is that we may easily be out of sync with the Lord. We are often 20 steps ahead of where we need to be, living from the carefully crafted piece of notebook paper hosting the never ending checklist or the reel of thoughts that play like movie credits the minute we open our eyes each morning. But the question becomes, did we consult the Lord first in all of this?
This really reminds me of another scripture that I have followed intimately over the last several years. It’s Matthew 6:33 (NIV). Jesus is speaking.
But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and ALL these things will be given to you as well. [Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself…].
Jesus knew we would face distractions, so He made sure to set the priorities straight for us. And this verse is an amazing reminder of what and more importantly, WHO, to seek first in our days. If we go back to the story of Martha and Mary, we can see what was really happening. Martha was distracted and upset by “many things.” Mary simply chose Jesus. And Jesus said she chose better.
Ultimately, our legacy when we leave this earth is not going to be how many to-do lists we completed, our jam packed schedules or how many boxes we were able to check off. No one is going to see those.
God already knows you and what you need today, four days from now, and even 10 years down the road. His story for your life never changes. It’s His desire to sync your to-do lists with His plans and purposes for your life. This is what happens when you put first things first.
I love how God lovingly reminds me to be more like Mary. I’m starting to see His nudges this way more and more. Most recently, I was between reading something in my old journal (pre-2021), while writing in my new journal (2021). Suddenly, I looked down to see the non-coincidental irony: my old journal was entitled “I am very busy,” while my new one is called, “Unforced rhythms of grace.” There, in the title of a journal, was a sweet reminder to stay close and to keep in step with Him.
I, myself, have been on this transition from Martha to Mary for some time, as my journals show. The more I sit at Jesus’ feet, the more I want to be there. I am learning to let go of these expectations of myself and rather learn to just be.
I encourage you to do the same.
No music. No phone. Just you, a journal, pen and a willingness to rest in the Lord’s embrace. Keep your eyes and mind on Jesus. This is a time to listen and write down the thoughts that won’t leave you. It may start with a word or two. But give it time. Before you know it, you’ll be looking for ways to spend more and more time listening, hearing from the Lord and basking in His glorious presence.
So to answer our original question, to do or to be? It’s both. The key is to make sure we put one before the other. Begin by being with God. Let everything else follow.
God’s got you! What He has for you, is for you. Know in your heart there is nothing you can do or not do to mess that up.
Enjoy the unforced rhythms of His grace!
Andrea is a perpetual learner and aspiring writer. She has a PhD in Cellular and Molecular Pathology and has worked both in academia and industry. While published on this front, she is excited to explore her writing in the faith arena.
Born in Spain, raised in Pittsburgh, with an international history, traveling is in Andrea's blood. One postdoctoral position took her as far as Perth, Australia where she lived for almost 4 years and remains in her heart to do this very day.
She loves people, cultures, and truly connecting on a deeper level. Andrea's goal is to use her singlehood story to inspire others to trust God on the journey, have fulfillment and keep hope alive.