So, the other day I was in the laundry room, feeling my adrenaline level rising. I hadn't done enough lessons with the children. My house wasn't clean enough. I hadn't payed the bills, or returned all my calls. I hadn't done this and I hadn't done that..... when the Holy Spirit broke into my interior conversation, asking gently "Amy, who are you comparing yourself with?"
To my shame, I must admit that is a question God has asked me a few times before. I have learned this is never a rhetorical question with Him; it is a painfully concrete question demanding a painfully truthful answer. (Someday soon I will write more about my dialogues with God on the topic of selfish ambition. Oi!) But this day, as I honestly reflected on the question, I concluded that I was measuring myself against an amalgam of ideals I had collected over time -standards for cleanliness (probably learned from my grandmother), standards for home schooling (inspired by a gifted friend), standards for hospitality, punctuality, spirituality, and so on. In my mind, if I could live up to those standards I would avoid the fearful, shameful possibility that someone would find fault with me, that I would disappoint someone. Horror of horrors!
"Now, Amy," He continued. "What have I asked you to do?"
I love the way God speaks to me, the way I assume He speaks to every soul. One tiny question explodes with meaning and revelation. Things I have known theoretically suddenly become living and active. In that little question I heard my Lord speak to me just as he spoke long ago to my sister Martha who "was worried and distracted by many things."
Immediately I remembered the lesson my friend Kay taught me about this passage years ago, that "only one thing is required." Sometimes that one thing is sitting at the Lord's feet. But other times it is cooking dinner, or changing a diaper, or making a phone call. The key is that at any given moment the Lord is asking only ONE thing, not more than I can handle. Only ONE thing is required, and if I keep my eyes on my Lord, as Mary did, I will know what that one thing is and avoid becoming distracted by many things.
Of course, there really are more things to do in any given day than I can manage, and that is where grace comes in.
The next question the Lord asked me was this. "Look around you, Amy. Did you earn this house by working hard?" No, I certainly did not. In truth, I am not a very good housekeeper. I find it pretty humorous that God has chosen to entrust me with such a huge, beautiful home.
He asked me a few more questions, too personal for a blog, but the response was the same. "No Lord, I have not earned such favor. I am overwhelmed by your grace - grace in the work you give me strength to do, and grace in the work I cannot do, when others carry me."
As for the assurance that no one will find fault with me - that too is something I can never earn. In my better moments, I know I should not even desire such a thing. Seeking the praise of men is a deadly snare. Mary did not escape the criticism of her sister. Jesus was scorned by the Pharisees. But they were not distracted, and they were not overwhelmed.