My skin is still cool, my heart pumping a bit stronger. Afternoon spring walks in New England remind me that the remnants of winter linger. Still, I anticipate the newness this next season will reveal, knowing it’s about to bloom, but far enough away it can only be imagined.
And it’s in this imagining that I feel the exhilaration of possibility, of the new, of the what ifs, and the maybe I will do this or the maybe I will do that. There is a flip side to this exhilaration though. Like an ominous cloud forewarning a destructive storm, exhaustion hovers in the background. It waits for exhilaration to wane so it can overtake every bit of what once was anticipated, crush the hope out of every possibility.
I know that crushing exhaustion exists because I’ve arrived on the flip side of anticipation before; arrived depleted, empty, spent. As the cold of winter yields to the promise of spring, I embrace this excitement with a gentle eye on the storm clouds straining to gather. My heart’s desire to do it all must join hands with the wisdom birthed from my past poor decisions.
There is a holy awe that settles on me now. I feel it as I try to measure my exuberance, as if that’s even possible. In this moment, I hear the Spirit whisper, “You were created for a purpose, not every purpose.” I sit in the quiet that follows; I repeat those words aloud, softly.
I was created for a purpose, not every purpose. But how do I choose? How do I know? How does a heart that wants to do it all muster the fortitude to say yes to one thing and no to the rest? My head bows, I plead for understanding.
I think of Mary and Martha. They were sisters who walked and talked with Jesus, the ones like me who were excited about much.
I bristle a bit because I never cared for that story. My heart aligns with Martha. I relate to her work ethic and pragmatic planning for feeding crowds. I want to plead her case, shout the question that no one asks, “Who will make the food if she doesn’t?” It’s as if I’m in her kitchen bewildered by Jesus’s response to her practical request for assistance from her sister.
I never understood how Jesus could say,
‘Martha, Martha, . . . 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.’
But this is the verse I recall as I ask for understanding, as I seek guidance in how to move into this new season in realistic, healthy ways. I breathe in deeply; exhale hard. I read again and again, struggling to grasp truth. Then, three words ring clear, clearer than ever before - Mary has chosen.
Suddenly I remember my earlier question breathed in a prayer, “How does a heart that wants to do it all muster the fortitude to say yes to one thing and no to the rest?” And the answer comes in three words – Mary has chosen.
In my mind, Mary is cast as immature and scattered. She is one who is distracted and unreliable. She seems whimsical and carefree, yet irresponsible and self-indulgent. She does not have a practical bone in her body. Yet, here she is commended by Jesus for not only having the insight to know what is best, but the fortitude to make an informed decision. I fear I cast her wrong; realize I misjudged grossly.
My heart is humbled as I struggle to do what Mary has done. I realize that my evaluation of Mary’s character for not doing it all, for choosing one thing, is what keeps me from choosing one thing for myself, keeps me running after everything. I feel accomplished in the accomplishing and weak in the sitting. I wrongly conclude that if I sit at the feet of Jesus when there is a lot going on around me then I am that immature, scattered, self-indulgent girl. But, that was not Mary’s nature at all.
Mary has chosen and her choice will not be taken from her. Her act of choosing, the very choice she made will be honored, acknowledged and respected. Mary discerned the better thing from the other things. She chose that which offers peace and calm instead of worry and upset - Mary has chosen.
And I come back to these words, “I was created for a purpose, not every purpose.” Will I forfeit my purpose, forfeit peace, for my skewed view of what qualifies as accomplished, what qualifies as worthy?
My cheeks have warmed now, my heart beats its slow steady rhythm. The spring that is about to bloom outside begins to stir inside me as well. I realize my only safeguard against the exhaustion of doing too much rests in my choosing, choosing the One thing. I don’t want to be worried and upset about much. I don’t want to try to fulfill every purpose, I want to live my purpose. I want to fulfill the purpose I was created for, not every purpose under heaven. Like Mary, I must choose. I must get out of my own way, lay aside my tilted view of things and choose. It really is that simple. Like Mary, I must choose - we all must choose, because we were never expected to do it all.