Thursday, May 5, 2011

The 21st Century Woman: Trying to Have It All

I have two questions for the ladies out there:

One: How many plates do you have up in the air right now?
Two: How full is your plate? Any room left for “dessert”?
(IOW, for the things you really like and enjoy?)

I guess what I'm really asking is this: Is your life crazy right now? Do you wish life could be simpler?

My wife, Kathy Jo, subscribes to a magazine entitled Real Simple. The subtitle is Life Made Easier. But I find it ironic that a magazine entitled Real Simple has, in the most recent issue, 256 pages! (An issue from several months ago had only 172 pages.) Shouldn’t a magazine called Real Simple only be about 10 or 12 pages?!

Isn’t this a perfect reflection of our culture today…and what most women are dealing with? (I would be willing to bet that at least 90% of the readers and subscribers to Real Simple are women.) And what the magazine claims as it’s purpose or goal—to help you simplify your life—seems to get lost in it’s size and scope…it would take you all month just to read the whole thing!

And when I opened one issue, what I saw in the first 15 pages were pictures of perfect women – hawking make-up products, fitness items, fancy cars, jewelry and other stuff – these gorgeous women would put the average woman right under the laundry pile; she will never look as sexy these airbrushed models; she is never going to be shaped like these skinny minnies!

What a downer!

What this magazine tries to say in around 200+ pages every month, the gospel writer Luke edits down to one paragraph; five verses, eight sentences! That’s it. All you really need to know to live simply, yet significantly. You'll find this advice for simple living in Luke 10:38-42. It's the account of Jesus going to visit two sisters, Martha and Mary:

As Jesus and the disciples continued on their way to Jerusalem, they came to a certain village where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. Her sister, Mary, sat at the Lord’s feet, listening to what he taught. But Martha was distracted by the big dinner she was preparing. She came to Jesus and said, “Lord, doesn’t it seem unfair to you that my sister just sits here while I do all the work? Tell her to come and help me.”
But the Lord said to her, “My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.” (from the New Living Translation)

Martha complains to Jesus that Mary is just sitting around (with the men, can you imagine?!) and Martha wants her to help in the kitchen! Jesus tells Martha that Mary has chosen the “better portion.” Because Mary’s focusing on Jesus, she has been set free from the anxiety and worry that has Martha so troubled.

Martha is worried about food portions;
Mary is worried about soul food portions.

Martha is caught up in the game that we get caught up in: someone important is coming to her home, and she’s trying to impress them. We are so concerned about what others think of us – we will go to great lengths to impress people.

Dr. Dennis Kinlaw, former president of Asbury College, makes a great observation about our concern to impress others:

“Many of us have a fetish about appearance. I am not talking about clothing and external appearance, although that can be part of it. I am talking about wanting to impress other people all the time, refusing to lose in front of other people, choosing not to accept even second best … What insufferable bondage it is for us and for those we love when we have to look good at every social engagement and in every situation.”
—from This Day With the Master

You've got to cut Martha some slack, though. Because Martha was right to question Mary sitting at Jesus’ feet – women in that culture didn’t become disciples and study scripture – they served the men! Martha was trying to comply with the conventions of her day - she was trying to meet what she assumed were everyone else's expectations of her as a woman. What expectations, what stereotypes today are binding you, squeezing you into a mold that isn’t from God? Note what the apostle Paul says about this in Romans 12.2:

"Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect." (from the New Living Translation)

Jesus gives Mary (and Martha!) permission to break out of the old stereotypes and expectations - the world's behaviors and customs - in order to receive something better, something that truly fills the inner life. Martha is in the conventional role – it is Mary who is not being a “productive member of society” according to their criteria. But it is Martha’s anxiety and worry that are keeping her from enjoying the fact that Jesus is right there, he is available to her for a relationship and for spiritual nurture.

So imagine something with me: think of your life as a plate (we always talk about our plate being full, so you understand the metaphor)…your plate starts out empty; you can put anything on it that you want...or you can let others load it up for you as well…

When you’re putting those “portions” on your “plate” – ask yourself:
• Is your plate too full?
• Is all this stuff on your plate healthy?
• Is all this stuff going to give you “indigestion”?
• What would happen if you left some of this food on your plate—or dumped it down the garbage disposal? Would the world end?
• What are you putting on your family’s or friends’ plates?

• Have you left any room on your plate for Jesus, the “better portion”?

Jesus promises that there is a better way to live than constantly overloading your life’s “plate” with more and more! Are you ready to leave behind the old behaviors and customs - the stereotypes and expectations other have for you? Are you ready to sit at Jesus' feet and learn a new way of living - are you ready for the "better portion" - some real soul food - on your plate?

Stay Connected,

Pastor Mike

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