Being Before Doing
We live in a culture which highly values doing, it’s what makes us so productive as a nation. We work hard, take less vacations than other industrialized nations. We have some of the highest incomes and standards of living in the world as well. We are good at getting things done and making sure everyone else around us does as well , and when they don’t, we get bothered, frustrated, we feel they aren’t carrying their weight, even as we are getting frazzled and burned out. And we tend to bring this value and perspective over into our spiritual lives as well. We think that our value or worth to God is based on what we do for God. When we try to be good and do good, and follow God’s rules, then God will love us, God will be happy with us, and so we can’t say “no”, and we keep doing more and more, spinning more and more plates on the end of sticks. When the truth is that our value and worth is not in what we do but in who we are. We are God’s beloved, created in God’s image so that he can pour out his love on us. God loves us for who we are even if we do nothing to earn it, or deserve it. Even if we make all the wrong choices, we sin and even do evil. We harm ourselves and others, God still loves us with an unconditional love. What God desires is that we receive his love and return his love. Our first response is not to do, but to be with him.
Consider Jesus’ friends Martha and Mary when he was in their home in Bethany. Martha was running around frantically trying to clean the house and fix dinner for Jesus and all his disciples, while her sister Mary was just sitting at the feet of Jesus seemingly doing nothing. She finally got so worked up and upset because Mary wasn’t helping her, that she poured out her complaints to Jesus, “tell my sister to help me.” But instead Jesus replied, “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 10:41-42).” It’s not that what Martha was doing was wrong, she was doing a good thing for Jesus and his disciples, but what Jesus was teaching her was the importance of being before doing. The “one thing” that was most important was taking time to be in Jesus’ (God’s) presence, to allow ourselves to be loved by him, and to love him, to listen to him, learn from him, and then do what he says, not what we think he wants us to do. When we don’t take time to be in God’s presence before doing, we get easily bothered, distracted, we lose focus, get burned out in our busyness. But God is not the one causing us to do 10,000 things, and get frustrated and burned out, we are doing that to ourselves because we are not taking the time to be with God and listen to him, and follow his directions. We think that if we don’t do those 10,000 things the world will fall apart, God will be disappointed with us, but neither is the case. God doesn’t need us to do anything, he is fully capable of doing anything and everything, even without us. What he wants is for us is to first be with him, and then get our marching orders from him. He will not burn us out, or cause us to be distracted because he will only assign us to do whatever he will empower and equip us to do.
This is also why, as we get older, and are less capable of doing things like we used to, we start to feel useless because we draw our value from what we do, when our primary value and worth is who we are in Christ Jesus.
Are you taking time to be with God on a daily basis, talking with him, listening to him, learning from him, being directed by him? If not, why not? Are you being like Martha so busy doing things, possibly even doing good things for God, that you don’t actually have time to be with him? Do you find yourself feeling burned out? Frustrated? Distracted? Empty? Discouraged? Then you might need to take a step back and consider if those things you are busy doing are actually things God has desired for you and directed you to do. God might be telling you right now that the one thing you need to do first is to spend time daily at his feet, and then reassess what he is actually calling you to do.