‘Which best describes you? a) You like to get things done, or b) You like to know that everyone’s getting on well’
I said ‘b’ because surely people are more important than tasks!
My Mum-in-law (who knows me too well) said, ‘Really? Are you sure?’
‘Yes, of course.’
Since that conversation I’ve often looked back and admitted regretfully, ‘No, I should have said ‘a’.’ I’d like to think that, in a house full of guests, I’d be content just to know everyone was having a good time and enjoying each other’s company. But really, I’d be mentally totting up the jobs that need doing in preparation/clear-up. And when I can tick something off my list, that’s what gives me a buzz. I think in personality-test-world this is called ‘Task oriented.’ Sigh. Now don’t get me wrong, I know we need task-oriented people in order to get things done, and thankfully I have many relationship-oriented people around me so I think we do OK. But that’s not why I’m harping on about this.
I recently wrote a post about making sure you have a quiet time (Fight for your Life) and since then I was blessed to hear some teaching on why we don’t do quiet times. One reason stood out to me because it applied to me and I’d never thought of it before (my dullness (aka stupidity) never ceases to amaze me). He said that sometimes we don’t do quiet times because we don’t have the patience. If I read my Bible at 10am, I probably won’t see the results by 10.45. So, if I’m honest, I find it hard to see the point. It takes too long, the results aren’t usually tangible, I can’t really tick anything off my list, so it just gets shoved down my priority list along with phoning my great aunt and going for a coffee with that eccentric lady at church. I know, I’m a wretch.
This isn’t just a 21st Century problem. Look at Mary and Martha in Luke 10:
38 As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. 39 She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. 40 But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”
41 “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”
Jesus knows I’ve got many things to do. But let’s get our priorities right. Mary chose what is better. I need to sit down and shut up. I need to read my Bible and hear the Lord speak to me.
God is so kind that he forced me into this the other day. I was feeling really stressed and wound up because I had lots to do and I didn’t think I had enough time. And to top it all off, I had to go to the dentist. Thankfully a kind friend offered to look after my younger children for me, and she told me not to bother coming home again in between the appointment and the school pick-up. Then the dentist appointment only took five minutes, so I had 45 minutes to spare before I had to be at the school gate. What to do? The only thing I could do, friend – I went to Starbucks and read. For the first ten minutes or so I was still on edge. But as I sat there reasoning that I couldn’t do anything else anyway so I might as well just try to calm down and read, I slowly started to unwind. Heck, I really enjoyed myself. And I went home feeling much calmer and generally less crazy. Sometimes I whip myself into a frenzy, and reading the Bible gives me the perspective I need to go back to my to-do list and realise that the world will not end if I don’t get it all done today (well it might, but the two will be unrelated).
Again, I do know that task-oriented people are not bad, but there’s no way I need to remind myself to be more task oriented! If you, however, are completely the opposite and never get anything done, all the while getting on marvellously with everyone, then you probably can’t relate to this! However, if you are a bit like me (but maybe less frantic and a bit nicer), I hope you’ll be encouraged. Relationships take time, don’t they? We know that because our kiddiwinks demand so much of our time (or friends/family if you’re not a parent). Sometimes you do have to abandon the chopping board in favour of a jigsaw, or let the wet washing sit a bit longer so you can listen to your child’s long-winded account of the day. And you know that’s right. Nobody gets to the end of their life and thinks, ‘I wish I’d hoovered more often. Once a fortnight just wasn’t enough.’ But the time you spend now with your kids will be paying off for decades, and even generations to come. How much more so, then, with your time spent with the Lord? I want to look through the photo albums in my old age and say, ‘Yes, we never did paint the kitchen or put up that garden fence!’ and then sing another song about Jesus. So I’m going to try to slow down, and choose what’s better. I hope you’ll join me.