"Martha, Martha," the Lord answered, "you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her."
Since I was in Jr. High School, I thought of myself as a relational person. I spent my summers working as a counselor at a summer camp. I went on two mission trips. I was actively involved with our Christian Service Brigade group at church. I assumed that I was a people-oriented person. Then I took my first personality inventory and, to my surprise, I discovered that I am a task-oriented person. I am much more of a doer than a relater.
It wasn’t that long ago that I finally realized that I am project driven. I am motivated by short-term, well-defined projects. Give me a specific task and I am on it. I am not great at maintaining things over the long haul. Even though I thrive on routine, I bog down when it comes to sustaining routine objectives that require on-going energy and enthusiasm.
Being naturally task-oriented, I have had to work hard at being genuinely relational. Some people are naturally relational. They effortlessly enter into other people’s lives with joy and enthusiasm. They are energized by connecting with people; all people. I know a person who, placed into a room of strangers, would connect with everyone of them before the evening was over. I would be fortunate to connect in a meaningful way with one or maybe two people in the room.
Leith Anderson once told me that we are all like Legos. Each of us has a certain number of snap-on points. When our snap-on points are full we cannot add any more relationships. I have a limited number of snap-on points. Therefore, I have had to work very hard at connecting with people. God has been very gracious to me, and has allowed me to develop a number of close, significant friendships over the years, but I will never be the relational magnet that some others are.
Being a doer, I am most comfortable working on a specific project. If I can manage the task on my own, all the better. One of the huge growing edges for me has been learning to work with others in meaningful ways. It takes more time. It is not always the most efficient. It is often messy. But I know that it is what God wants from me. We have not been created to travel through life as a solo. We were created to live in relationship with God and with one another.
One of the problems that we face is that we live in a world were doing is valued over being. If a person is not busy doing something, they are wasting their time. We fill our lives with activities at the expense of genuine relationships. What is true of the world is true of the church as well. We value programs over people. We equate busyness with effectiveness. We have become a tribe of doers.
Currently, I am in a position where my prime task right now is building relationships. Building relationships takes time. So, I have been internally struggling with the sense that I should be doing something, when what I really need to do is slow down and genuinely relate to people.
Martha is often given a hard time for being task oriented instead of people oriented. What Martha was doing was necessary. She did it out of love for Jesus. She genuinely wanted to serve. Her real problem was that, instead of serving with joy, she served with resentment. Why can’t Mary be as task-oriented as I am? There is work to be done. She is wasting time!!! Does any of that sound familiar? The issue is not what Martha was doing, but how she was feeling on the inside; her attitude. Mary took the time to be with Jesus. Martha was missing the chance to really be with Jesus, because her attitude had become a barrier.
I genuinely love Jesus and want to serve Him. But I tend to measure my commitment to Christ by what I do more than who I am becoming. I can fall into the trap of trying to impress Christ with all that I am doing for Him when what He wants is for me to walk with Him. I value the task, He values the relationship. The two are not mutually exclusive. As James reminds us in James 1:22 we need to be doers of the Word. Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. (James 1:22) Jesus said that if we really love Him we will obey (do) what He commanded. So, what does Jesus want us to do, above everything else? "The most important one," answered Jesus, "is this: 'Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.' The second is this: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no commandment greater than these." (Mark 12:29-31)
All of us need to understand who we are. We need to balance our doing with our being. We need to be faithful at the task, while, at the same time, being intentional about developing the relationship. Each of us will naturally gravitate in one direction or the other. If you are task-oriented, like me, you will have to work harder at building relationships. If you are people-oriented, you will have to work harder at accomplishing the task. Bottomline, the most important thing is not what are we doing, but who are we becoming in Christ.
But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ--the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.