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My Undoing

March 13, 2013

“Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.”

But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:38-42.


I have always identified with Martha in that story.

This is not for pastors’ want of admonitions to strive to be a Mary. And it is not for want of aspiration on my part. If Jesus says it is true, it is TRUE and I aspire to live in light of the truth.


It’s more like my natural human bent is toward Martha-dom. I see things that need doing and I enjoy getting them done. I’m also an introvert and often find tasks less taxing than people.

Then I met MS. It’s message: my body was rebelling against decades of multi-tasking. So I’ve spent the past four months working myself out of responsibilities. Finishing commitments outside my family and not accepting new ones.

Old habits are hard to shake. I still feel much better at doing than being.

How does one do “being”?

That question has had my mental cat chasing its tail for three weeks. And this is what I’ve noticed.

Other people know me by what they see me doing.

I have been acutely conscious of this since December when the remodeling contractors arrived. I could be having a perfectly fine moment trying to exercise being, and hearing the door bell ring zapped me into doing mode.


See what this picture says? I had flashbacks to sit-coms like Leave It To Beaver where a mom answering the door walks on camera wiping her hands on a dish towel: evidence that she was not sitting around doing nothing before the camera turned on.

I gave up on being each day as long as these relative strangers and their power tools lasted. My rough compromise: I used the hours they were here to accomplish the daily things that need to be done for a family of six even in the midst of my undoing.

Like laundry. Trying to cook in vestiges of my kitchen. Wiping endless rounds of construction dust.

As I did, I noticed this: unless I was up (away from my computer and my work), being seen being busy doing things, these strangers wanted to visit while their power tools idled.  My busyness became a faithful sheepdog nipping at the heels of those standing on my new kitchen counters in their work boots. Like, See how much you can accomplish, and how fast if you don’t waste time making small talk with each other or your clients?

Please, my housekeeping begged. Get the job done and give me my life space back.

I tried to exercise patience and mercy and politeness the first six, scheduled, weeks of the project. After all, it wasn’t their fault we needed them to remodel the part of the house I live in.

But I didn’t do so well the six extra weeks they took to finish the job.

Yet I learned something about people: many have no problem being, when I expected them to be doing. In fact some of them seemed distinctly uncomfortable just working. As if being –being friendly, being sociable, being open –was as important as wiring the lighting or tiling the wall.

You know: they might do a better job sitting at the feet of Jesus than I do.

But  just when I was ready to conclude that as an introvert, I need space and stillness in which to fledge being –sounds like the classic formula for writing, doesn’t it? –the strangers stapled up the last LEDs under the cabinets, packed up their tools and went home.

The same week my children came home from school for Spring Break. This week. Nix the coveted space and stillness.

But surprisingly, not the being.

In the still moments between contractors, I’ve been growing familiar with my undoing.

To my astonishment, I realize that much, necessary work  happens when I devote time to being. I might say the interior of my heart is shabbier and more dysfunctional than my old kitchen.

My former life was so over-scheduled that there was no time left over just to be. I rarely could be in the moment because each one was double or triple booked with tasks I had agreed to do or required of myself.

“Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but ONE thing is necessary.”

And while I sat on the couch on Monday, being, in the midst of my swirling children, something wonderful happened.

Hope flitted to the couch and stilled herself in the space at my feet like a butterfly tucking into a cone-flower.

“What are you doing?” she asked nodding at the Bible open in my lap.”This week’s Sunday School lesson?”

“No,” I said. “I’m done teaching now. I’m in the New Testament. Just reading. Waiting on God.”

“Waiting on God?” she asked. “Like you expect him to show up? Like in a burning bush?”

I smiled. “No. Not in a burning bush. But yes to expecting God to show up. These are his words, you know? I am troubled about something in my work. But God is not having a problem. So I’m just waiting for him to tell me what to do.”

“Has he told you yet?” Hope asked expectantly.

“No. Not specifically. But he will.”

“Okay, then,” she said, stirring her wings for take-off. “I’ll just leave the two of you waiting on each other.” She launched off the couch. “But when he shows up, I want to know what he says.”


This is my undoing.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. March 13, 2013 11:40 pm

    Thank you for this.

  2. March 19, 2013 8:02 pm

    Beautifully said.

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