“Being” means that you have to be with God. “Being” is a somewhat foreign concept as we are so well-practiced in the art of being in one place while our minds are focused elsewhere such as what task we have to do next or whether we’ll be late to an appointment. Being with God gathers our attention together and places it on God. The story of Mary and Martha provides an illustration of what it means to be with God.
“Now it happened as they went that He entered a certain village; and a certain woman named Martha welcomed Him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus’ feet and heard His word. But Martha was distracted with much serving, and she approached Him and said, ‘Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me.’ And Jesus answered and said to her, ‘Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.”
The problem is not that Martha was working, but that she was letting that work distract her from Jesus. As a matter of fact, we spend most of our time as a “Merry Martha”, going about our daily business with our gaze fixed upon Christ (Colossians 3:23). However, during wilderness time we seek a primarily Mary-state-of-mind, quietly and intently attending to God. The question that naturally follows this is “What do I do to imitate Mary?” The answer is to do what Mary did: to “sit at Jesus’ feet and hear His word.” In other words, following Mary’s example does not consist so much in doing as much as in being.
We typically strive for a balance between Martha and Mary because both are needed. Faith, after all, is a fusion of belief and action. In the story, Martha’s problem arose when she let her busyness come between her and Jesus whereas Mary made it her business to hear Jesus. The difference being that Martha’s actions made her deaf to Jesus while Mary’s actions allowed her to hear Him. When we approach wilderness time, it is tempting to focus on what we are doing and, like Martha, miss what God is doing. This is where our intentional submission to God helps us. Is our intention to form ourselves for God or to be formed by God?
In many ways, taking the time to be with God helps us to realign our priorities. We carve out a block of time for God and then we don’t allow other things that normally distract us from Him to interfere. Setting aside this time and going without the activities we typically occupy ourselves with gives us a more tangible way of setting God at the top of our list of priorities. It also gives us the chance to make our other desires and concerns play second fiddle to our desire for God. This may be the most difficult part of being with God. It is one thing to put God on equal footing with our other priorities, but it is something completely different to make them secondary to God so that He alone is our top priority.
Being with God is difficult and requires time and practice because it requires that we set aside things that not comfortable setting aside. However, in so doing we open ourselves up to receive from God.
1) What competes with God for the top spot in my life?
2) Am I content simply being with God at times? Why or why not?
3) What specific steps can I take to follow Mary’s example in my wilderness time?