You Don't Have To Do It All
“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:41)
You don’t have to do it all.
Those words alone fill me with a sense of relief! I don’t think it’s just me when I say that this world is busy. Despite the fact that life isn’t a race, or a busyness competition it often feels that way. We are all busy, and seemingly striving to be the busiest. But, here’s the beautiful thing. We don’t need to be.
In the words of Queen: ‘We want it all, and we want it now’ has only left us feeling ‘Under Pressure’. We have elevated ‘busy’ to an enviable state of being, an identity. When our response to ‘How are you?’ becomes a list of everything we have or haven’t done, then we are at risk of losing ourselves in the unhumble haze of busyness.
In Luke 10:41, Jesus cuts through all of that. In this story, Jesus teaches us that not only are we ‘worried and upset about many things’, but that ‘only one’ thing is needed. Martha is distracted.
‘You cannot do 100 things effectively. You need to choose what ramp to be on’ - Beth Moore
I am so guilty of wanting to be everything, to everyone, at all places, and at all times. Sound familiar? (It’s impossible, by the way, just in case you were wondering.) It is also detrimental: if the focus of our minds is on everything that isn’t done (past), or what needs to be done (future), then we are absent in the present. It is unloving to yourself, and selfish to others to try and do it all.
Martha was distracted, Mary was listening.
Not only listening, but ‘sitting at the Lord’s feet’. So wholeheartedly present, that in that moment nothing else mattered, and her attention was fully on Him. How often do we do that? How often are we fully with someone, completely undistracted by the temptation of the screen or our own thoughts? When we multi-task, it is as if we are deeming one task less worth our time than others. When we listen to someone, we are gracefully devoting the time and space they deserve.
If ‘few things are needed—or indeed only one’, then I need to reflect on the 100 ramps I am trying to climb, and choose the few that are taking me to the place God wants me to go.
“But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3: 13-14)
We don’t have to do it all because we can’t do it all.
‘So little time, so much to do’ is the theme tune to two of my childhood ideals: Mary Kate and Ashley, to the extent that I used to think they coined the phrase (!). When there’s so much on offer, it can be tempting to choose it all, and our plate becomes a smorgasbord of tasters: getting the bonus of trying everything, yet committing to nothing.
However, when the weight that is on our plate begins to consume us, when we push ourselves (and our schedules) to the limit, we are edging towards burn-out. But, thankfully, this mental, physical, and spiritual exhaustion has a remedy: rest.
When Mary chooses to rest, rather than fret and fluster, she chooses what is best. In my view, Mary is embodying Matthew 11:28: she takes Jesus’ yoke upon her, and learns from Him. The Message translation is so evocative:
“Learn the unforced rhythms of grace…Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”
If life ever feels forced, like you are putting on the mask of busyness, seeking to prove your worth, then sit, rest awhile.
You don’t have to do it all because He has done it all.
True rest is found when our souls are stilled. The weekday work is not what wearies us, but rather the ongoing inner murmur of an ever-striving soul. Seeking to fulfil its own standards of acceptance and worth and identity, seeking to prove and improve. Never being enough for ourselves is never-ending.
Sit: You don’t have to do it all.
Listen: You are enough.
Rest: ‘It is finished’.
God has done what we cannot, and He says it is good. Utterly satisfying, utterly finished. We can rest on His finished work, looking to Him, the only eyes from whom we need to seek acceptance, as He looks back with a Father’s gaze saying “My beloved child, in whom I am well-pleased.”
Deep peace, deep poise because Jesus Christ has done it all.
Less hustle, more grace because I don’t need to do it all.
Embrace a slower pace. When we slow down, we focus, and we can then set our own speed, rather than letting the busyness control us. And it is from that place of rest, rather than the state of busy, that we are most effective, most loving, and most free to live our lives totally for Him.
Abi has lived in 5 countries, and had the joy of calling them all home. She is also a Modern Languages student at Durham University and is currently on her year abroad in Italy. She’ll be going to the Middle East in March where she hopes to grasp some more Arabic, and learn how to cook tabbouleh and stuff vines leaves along the way (which she will most definitely take photos of).