One recent afternoon I was writing on my Book of Acts Bible study text and I sensed that some of what I was writing could easily be made into a helpful and insightful article. I was so tempted to copy out a section of the study and put it into a file to work on later. I knew, though, that someone was about to come visit with me in my office and that, if I did this, I would not be totally in the session.
I would physically be there but…I would not be PRESENT. My soul would not be completely available for the person coming to see me. That wouldn’t be fair to the person and it would cheat me of some of God’s intentions for my own life and my own time spent in that visit.
“Now it happened as they went that He entered a certain village; and a certain woman named Martha welcomed Him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus’ feet and heard His word. But Martha was distracted with much serving, and she approached Him and said, ‘Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me.’ And Jesus answered and said to her, ‘Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.’” (Luke 10:38-42)
The word “distracted” in verse 40 is a compound Greek word that literally means “to drag something around”. Imagine dragging something around as you tried do to things. Wouldn’t that be distracting? Martha was distracted.
Often, this story is told and is used to make people feel guilty for not dedicating time to Jesus or church attendance or Bible reading or study. Let’s not look at this story like that. Let’s look at it, instead, from the standpoint of whether we harvest the benefits from being actively present with others or waste those opportunities.
The truth is that we can be certain that Jesus is eternal and eternally available to us and we can be fairly sure that, barring something catastrophic, we will continue to have access to our Bibles and there will always be church services somewhere (even if it’s in secret underground meetings).
However, having recently lost to death a few people who are dear to me, I am very aware that we are not guaranteed access to individuals with whom God Himself has arranged that we could spend meaningful time.
I am also sadly aware that I have far too often allowed myself to be distracted in that time. I have frequently NOT been present with them. We just shared space and time. Then we went our separate ways.
“Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them. And they continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.” (Acts 2:41-42)
Luke says that “they continued steadfastly in…fellowship”. That word “fellowship” is often followed by the words “meal” or “hall” – so it comes to be associated with an action or a room in a building somewhere. But the word actually has to do with what is supposed to happen in those meals or halls – that so often gets lost in the hustle and bustle of the busyness.
The word “fellowship” is a rich word. It is the Greek word “koinōnia” (koy-nohn-ee'-ah) and literally means to be “in partnership” with someone else. It has built into it the ideas of personal participation, social intercourse, communication, and communion (interaction). There is another word that is associated with the Greek word “koinōnia” which is “distribution”; I’ve also heard it expressed as “impartation”.
The reason this is important is that it seems that God’s intention for us in “fellowship” is to not only spend time sharing space with one another but to also participate with one another, partnering in the visit and imparting His grace one to another. In other words, if we are present in these visits we impart something good to one another; something invisible yet nutritious, if you will, moves back and forth between us when we are present.
When Jesus said this: “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.’” (Luke 10:41-42), it seems to me that “that good part” could very well be the chance to be completely present with Jesus Who had just come from somewhere and would soon move on to somewhere else.
It also seems to me that when I was tempted to make myself preoccupied with the article I had in mind from Acts I was being tempted to cheat myself and the person visiting with me from the gift of an opportunity for us to be present with one another. That sounds to me like what Martha was allowing to happen to her.
Now, the person visiting me was NOT the incarnate Jesus and I am not the incarnate Jesus for that person. However, just like the Father intended for Jesus and the others that day in the home of Mary and Martha to be present with one another, the Father intended for me to be present for that person coming to visit with me in my office that day.
God arranged for that to happen.
God had intentions for that day’s meeting.
It seems to me that we DID accomplish what He expected to happen that day, which would NOT have happened had either of us allowed ourselves to be distracted.
As I sat to write my notes after the visit, it occurred to me that I HAVE allowed myself to not be as present as I could have been many, many times – not just in visits here but in other arenas. It occurs to me that many of us routinely allow ourselves to be cheated out of whatever God intends for us in church meetings, personal visits, meals, down time at home, family time and, even, while riding in vehicles with others. Our faces are dedicated to our beloved cellphones, computers, televisions and tablets; our ears are focused on meaningless noise; our minds are preoccupied with busyness.
Meanwhile, we don’t make eye contact with one another. We don’t LISTEN to one another – paying attention to the words said and the ones left unsaid, the tone, body language, etc.; we neglect communication.
We are NOT present. We waste what God loves us enough to provide in these precious visits.
I have decided that, unless there is a real crisis looming, I will take off my FitBit, which is linked to my phone and alerts me whenever I get a call, text message or reminder from my calendar. I will put my phone on “airplane mode”. I will spend less time on devices of all kinds and more time with the people who GOD arranged would be in my life.
I miss my friends and relatives who have gone on. I have great memories of every one of them but now that the possibility of being present with them on the earth is gone, I wish I had more time of “being present” with them.
The Lord caught my attention the other day. Perhaps this encouragement is for me and me alone. If so, that’s good enough for me.
However, I am VERY aware that I am not alone in this. Perhaps you are being touched too.
May we all harvest every scrap of every encounter the Lord arranges for us to experience. May NOTHING go to waste.
It won’t…if we purpose in our hearts to be present when God connects us.
“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.” (1 John 4:7)