Recently I came across the story of Mary and Martha from Luke 10:38-42. I read and reflected on this epic narrative while on a priority and planning retreat with my wife, Jill. The glaring contrast between what I will call the two postures of contemplation, became a source of practical conviction for me. I am generally diligent to live a focused life. But I have grown increasingly aware that with the barrage of technology that I have embraced in recent years, I can more easily than ever get distracted. Just one little look can lead to big distraction.
Consider the story:
38 As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. 39 She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. 40 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!”
41 “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but few things are needed—or indeed only one.[a] Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”
What a contrast!
- Mary – “Sat at Jesus’ feet listening to what he said.”
- Martha – “Distracted by all the preparations that had to be made.”
This biblical narrative powerfully illustrates the two postures of contemplation that I can find myself struggling with at times. Again, this struggle for me has been intensified since the era of smart phones and all they offer. It’s crazy, but while my soul and spirit yearn to sit and listen unhurriedly to the Lord, my mind and flesh are often too easily distracted by “all the preparations” that seem to call out to me with such urgency. Prepare myself for the day by seeing what my family and friends are up to by peeking at social media sites…Prepare myself for what may be going on in the world by just taking one little look at the news…and on and on it can go. And honestly, it can feel like these preparations “have to be made,” like Martha asserted. But who says so? Jesus clearly didn’t agree with Martha’s assessment. Rather than being distracted from Jesus by preparing a meal that he never ordered, Jesus highlighted the posture of Mary as the one that was better and would be lasting.
Sitting and listening. Better and lasting! I like that.
I do not believe that checking in on social media or the news is wrong or unhealthy in and of itself. It actually can be a pretty huge blessing when kept in balance. But when they end up distracting me from being quiet and still in the presence of God, something has got to change!
In the short run, Martha’s posture appears to be more tangibly productive. The felt need to be productive by this world’s standards can be a loud shout against the comparatively quiet and slow-paced posture of Mary.
For me, there are some days and seasons where I find it relatively easy to sit and remain quiet before the Lord. But occasionally, the posture of Martha rises up within me, even in the midst of experiencing the rich presence of God. Is it the devil? Addiction? Maybe both? I don’t know, but I hate it. All my constant connectivity to social media, email and the news have often proven to be successful at pulling my eyes and heart away the true Source of life. Sadly, on some mornings, I don’t even get to my intentional time with God before I am engrossed in the comparatively pointless chatter of my “wordy world” (A Nouwenism).
In light of all this, I’ve resolutely committed to resisting “one little look” at anything other than the clock and the coffee maker before hanging out with God in the morning. It was surprising to me that this commitment has not been that easy to follow through on. But I’ve committed this morning routine to the Lord, announced it to my wife and a few friends, and now recorded it for all to see on my blog. And while I know that Jesus doesn’t love me any more for making this resolution, I sensed his pleasure that I have “chosen the better thing.”
If you find yourself too easily distracted by this “one little look” syndrome, I want to encourage you that it can be overcome with spiritual discipline and accountability. The benefit this freedom brings to your spiritual and relational life make it more than worth it. May the Lord bless you as you experiment with ways to bring the use of technology into a healthy balance.
And please leave a comment if you have implemented some disciplines into your life that have proven to keep technology in check. What’s working for you?