Trying Hard to Earn What’s Free

I find myself in the middle of two writing challenges, so I’ve further challenged myself to combine the word prompts for each day into one piece. I figured the joke was on me when I saw today’s combination of words– REACH & STILLNESS, two words that don’t seem to have anything to do with each other at first blush.

But the more I thought about these two words, the more I realized how much they have in common, at least in my own life and practice. God is constantly asking me to be still. Be still and know he is God. Be still and wait patiently. The Lord will fight for me if I just be still. This all sounds fairly passive, like I need to sit back and allow for the stillness. So why do I make it an active project? Like stillness is something to be attained?

Brene Brown taught me a new term on a recent podcast— over- and under-functioning. At the risk of overly simplifying it, when we are faced with crisis, we tend to go one of two directions, namely we over-function or under-function. Like most oldest children, people-pleaser types, I am a classic over-functioner. Just call me Martha.

When she knew that Jesus would be coming over to her house, Martha kicked it into high gear, doing all the things for all the people and getting ticked at her good-for-nothing sister who just sat there at Jesus’ feet. Can anyone relate? Just me? I doubt it. I cringe everytime I read the words Jesus offered to Martha as she complained to him about her sister’s lack of functioning. “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 10:41-42 ESV) Ouch. We don’t get to see or hear how Martha reacted, but I can imagine. If Martha is anything like me, she probably felt crushed that all her rushing around and people pleasing wasn’t the better thing. All he wanted her to do was to be still. Leave it to Martha and me to hear that there is a good thing to be had and to think that it’s something we need to earn with all that we do for others. Leave it to us to hustle for something that’s offered freely.

Is it easier for Jesus to still the wind than it is to still me? In Psalm 23, we praise God for being our good shepherd. He offers exactly what I need (green pastures, still waters, all that good stuff) and invites me to rest there and be still. The verse says “makes me” but it literally means “leads me.” It’s up to me to accept the invitation– I can continue to reach for that stillness, working as though it is something to be achieved. Or I can lie down, rest, and be still. Lord, help me to choose the good portion.

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