(If you’re the kind of person who equates yoga mats with New Age thought, and therefore Satan himself, give me a second. I’m pretty sure this is going to make sense in a few paragraphs without you feeling like you need to go buy patchouli and attire yourself in tie-dyed hippy clothes. I don’t promise I’ll make sense, but stick with me and then mail me angry letters if I’m wrong.)
I write to you today from my yoga mat.
Just kidding. I sat there long enough to take a picture and then I skeedaddled to a real chair. I feel like a five-year old on a story rug when I sit on that thing for anything other than yoga.
So now I’m here in my grown up chair, and I need to explain a thought that’s been rattling around my head for a few weeks. Last Sunday I was interviewed during the sermon at church. Nic and I were talking about obedience to God in the small and regular things of life, and how good intentions don’t equal godly outcomes. We can hope to obey God and we can think we are obeying God, but unless we’re actually obeying God, we’re not actually obeying God.
Does that make any sense?
For example, there have been some pretty horrible things done throughout history and then the perpetrator said, “I did this for God!” And the rest of us shoot our eyebrows way up to the top of our foreheads and think I’m not interested in God if that’s how He operates. Slavery, the Crusades, concentration camps, the KKK– you get where I’m going. There’s a nut in each group that could look you in the eye and tell you God himself is sanctifying his or her actions.
If those actions are directly opposite of what Jesus told us to do, we walk away. Nope. Not God. Not good. No thank you.
Those are extreme examples, but we see that sort of thing happening on a smaller level all the time in our own lives. We go to church, we own a Bible, we love God… so then whatever we think or feel must be honoring God, right?
No. Incorrect. Whatever floats through our mind is not automatically God-honoring or obedient.
While Nic and I were chatting in front of church, we talked about how we can be obedient. One of the things I said was that we need to be present (cue hippy music and yoga pants…) as much as possible so we can be clued into the Holy Spirit and the situation of the moment. We can’t always be filtering the past, present, or future through the lens of our own motivations and understanding. We have to be present (cue incense and vegetarian dinner) so we can notice what’s going on around us, both physically and spiritually. Then we need to respond appropriately.
Let’s look at one of my favorite Bible stories so I can illustrate my point. In Luke 10:38-41, Jesus is at Mary and Martha’s home. Mary is sitting at Jesus’ feet, absorbing his presence and words. She’s laser focused on her Messiah.
Martha, her sister, is busy because she has a bunch of guests for dinner and there’s a ton to do. She gets cranky because Mary isn’t helping like she ought. She goes right to Jesus and says, “Lord, doesn’t it seem unfair to you that my sister just sits here while I do all the work? Tell her to come and help me.”
Now, let me step in and defend Martha for a second. I can guarantee that woman didn’t wake up in the morning and think, Hey! I think I’ll micromanage the Holy Spirit today and make sure everything works out just like I want! I get to boss around God’s Son this afternoon! Yay!
I’ve hosted large groups in my home, and I can tell you the woman was thinking about fifty details at once. She was wondering if she had enough goats on spits in the front yard. She was hoping she had enough clean towels. She was wondering how many guests were spending the night and if she had enough bread for breakfast. And Mary wasn’t helping, so Jesus was the most direct way to get her sister’s attention. (“Hey, Lord! Get that woman off the floor and into the kitchen!”–Jessie translation.)
Jesus didn’t share Martha’s perception of the situation. He said, “My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.” (Shush it, sister. Get with my program.— Jessie translation.)
This is what I want to point out– Martha had Jesus in her very own home. He was in the same room, seeing the same things. Smelling the cooking meat, hearing the servants in the kitchen clanging pots, and frankly not worried about any of it. Martha assumed that Jesus was worried about what she was worried about, but she needed to be present in the moment to notice she was off track. She needed to get over herself to notice what was important.
And so, as we all sit together with our organic yogurt and hemp sandals, I hope we can take a moment to be present with the Holy Spirit and to find Mary’s laser focus on Christ. It’s only then that we’ll really know what we’re called to do, and what obedience looks like in this moment.
I mean, Amen.