I took this photo while flying over the Atlantic on my way to Kenya in July 2013. I had slept for maybe half an hour, tucked neatly across two seats on a mostly empty plane; my teammates had spread out over two or three seats and had been sleeping for hours. I don’t remember what I did to keep myself occupied in overnight, but I do remember my childish delight as day broke through my frosted window.
It was all new and fresh, not only the day but the experience. I had never wanted to go to Africa and yet thence I was bound. All I had was God’s directive and behind that His promise of strength. I sat in my airplane seat, head against the wall, just enjoying His glory breaking forth over the clouds even as I wondered what lay ahead and how I would respond.
I have never processed well in immediacy. And so it is I never understand how people can process a full year on its last day, and turn the very next day to goals. I almost envy this, because at the end of the year I’m too numbly contemplative to think coherently about the year behind, and at the beginning of the next I’m still too numbly contemplative to think coherently about the year ahead. So this year, I decided to take off from blogging the first full week of January, and that turned into two more weeks unexpectedly.
Please don’t misunderstand me: I loved reading 2014 recaps and 2015 ambitions. I just can’t do that myself, not so soon after the former has ended and the latter’s begun. But dawn has broken in my brain, nearly four weeks into the year, and I can finally begin to think about what 2015 will hold without trying to look through a haze of ALL THE NEW.
Too often I think we feel the pressure of needing to fill silence, digital or otherwise. I had to wrestle myself out of posting on Instagram yesterday afternoon, partially to share some exciting news but mostly just to post on Instagram. (The news is better pondered here, which I hope to do sometime this week.) We get caught up in our platforms, and not badly: it’s critical to consider our approaches to social media and blogs and be conscientious about what we post and why. But I want to better learn the art of deliberate, contemplative silence.
I want to better understand the heart of Jesus when He tells Martha that Mary chose what was better, not because He’s trying to say Mary is better or He thinks Martha should stop doing ALL THE THINGS, but because Martha’s heart behind ALL THE THINGS had, like a butterfly, been seized too forcefully and the wings had been damaged. She had been focused on landing well, but I think Jesus calls us to soar by sitting still.
Mary had chosen what is better; Martha had chosen ALL THE THINGS. And who of us would disagree that Jesus is better than ALL THE THINGS?
I’ve blogged about this with increasingly frequency in the past year, and it’s because on my spiritual birth certificate, my middle name is Martha. Y’all, I read your blogs, and you read mine: we talk so often about choosing Jesus over the lesser things. And I’m glad of that: we need the reminder. But we also need, like Mary, to sit down and bask in stillness at His feet. Sometimes that will look like dawn breaking over the Atlantic and other times it will look like allowing uncomfortable silence in a small group (ask me how I know!). But it’s all kingdom work. It’s all sitting at His feet. It’s all learning the art of God with us.