The theme of my reflection is waiting, and not just waiting, but waiting in joyful hope. If you've ever seen me in the 45 minutes before a community dinner, you’ll know how difficult a topic this was for me. My pre-dinner routine consists of about 4% waiting, and 96% snacking on everything in the pantry until we sit down for a meal.
But because waiting is such a difficult thing for me to do, I think that I especially could learn from this reflection. And, probably because waiting is such an unfamiliar topic for me, my mind immediately jumped to this story, which has very little to do with waiting.
Luke 10:38-42 says: As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. 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! “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “You are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”
I have always been confused by this story of Mary and Martha. Mary is praised for sitting down and not doing anything, while Martha is scolded for doing exactly what I would be doing in her situation—working her butt off to make her house look nice enough for the VIP guest who just rolled in. But when I think of the why and I think of the how, I think I understand. As Martha and Mary were waiting for Jesus to come, Mary was thinking about how great it would be to see the person who was coming to visit. Martha, on the other hand, was definitely trying to remember how long it had been since she’d swept her backyard. There was so much work for her to do, that she barely spared a thought for her guest, and even when he arrived, she remained focused on the work that had to be done, when the reason for all her preparations was sitting right in front of her.
Waiting in joyful hope doesn't have to mean waiting without action—that’s not what Martha should have done. It probably means that we should be doing quite a bit. No matter what we’re doing though, waiting in joyful hope means that we’re acting for God and we’re acting because we depend on God.
Martha’s (and my) problem isn't what we’re doing. It’s how we’re doing it. I spend a lot of my time at work, at home, and interacting with others creating my own world. I’m so focused on what I need to do, and what I need to accomplish that I lose sight of why. I’m responsible because no one else will be. I’m kind because that person may be kind to me later. The world I create is one where I’m the sole source of good and the only one capable of solving problems. Somehow this never lasts for long, and when I can’t be good enough, fast enough, or smart enough, it is all my fault and the world is a worse place because of it. This is even harder for me at my site. I have a lot of responsibilities, and when I mess up, someone doesn't get the tutoring they need to pass their classes or the money they need to pay their rent. There are so many problems that I see, and when I fail, people are hurt and it is all my fault. I’m playing God, and I am terrible at it.
But that’s not how we are called to be. We are called to serve—not as God, but for God. Because the world has a lot of pain, suffering, and heartbreak, and we encounter it every day.
But the world also has beautiful, wonderful people who make every day a gift. I live with 7 of them and have met so many more here in Amate. Waiting in joyful hope means that we recognize the pain and suffering, but we choose to fight it and we choose to hope. Because God isn't some ancient and distant being. He isn’t coming only to judge us for the pain we've failed to ease. God is coming because we need him, and while I’m planning to work until he comes, I’m going to make sure that I’m waiting when he gets here.