Worries and Distractions

Do you ever get up in the middle of the night just to worry?

It’s 4:00 in the morning and my mind is not at rest. There is something about the “witching hour” that catches up with me more nights than I would like to mention. I get awake and start the video replay of all the things I have to do, all the things I wish I had said, all the things I regret saying (!), and a multitude of other non-sensical items dance through my head. Sometimes it can take up to an hour to fall back asleep.

Yesterday, I preached a sermon on Mary and Martha as part of our Epiphany series on “Seeing God through different things.” My emphasis was on seeing God through sitting at Jesus’ feet (Bible study) in order to arise and serve, as Mary does in this passage. I didn’t spend too much time on what was happening to Martha, so let’s take a moment to unpack that. Watch for the words distracted and worried:

Luke 10 (New Revised Standard Version)

38 Now as they went on their way, he entered a certain village where a woman named Martha welcomed him.[k] 39 She had a sister named Mary, who sat at Jesus’s feet and listened to what he was saying. 40 But Martha was distracted by her many tasks, so she came to him and asked, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her, then, to help me.” 41 But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things, 42 but few things are needed—indeed only one. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.”

Last night I was blessed to lead the youth group in a study on this passage, so naturally I focused on distractions and worries. Their responses were very telling! Everyone was able to name their distractions, and number one among the responses was “my phone.”

Are you constantly distracted by your phone? Do you find yourself in a live conversation with someone and you keep glancing down at your text messages? I was grateful that they could name it, and then five minutes later had to ask two of them to put their phones down.

Martha was distracted by her many tasks, and she was worried. Who could blame her? Wouldn’t you worry if Jesus was coming to your house for dinner? I mean, what do you serve the Son of God if he came to dinner? I told my congregation that I would immediately call the church’s Care Team and request a meal to be brought over, preferably Rendy’s famous Chicken Pot Pie with a lot of side dishes. I would proudly serve that to Jesus. He’s probably never eaten as well as the Methodists do at a potluck supper! Casseroles galore over here!

We went on to talk about things we worry about, and a very lovely High School Senior said, “Disappointing other people.” She told a story about how she cried at her Spanish oral exam because she could tell that the teacher, whom she adores, appeared to be let down at how she was doing. The sting of disappointing someone hurt her heart.

I can completely relate and might even add that the FEAR of disappointing someone is often a “negative motivator” for me when I have to get something done. What a terrible burden we carry when we feel that way!

What distracts you? What are you worried about?

Now that we’ve acknowledged that we are all Martha, let’s see what Mary did. Mary instantly put her distractions and tasks aside the minute Jesus walked into the house and sat at his feet to listen to his teaching. And there is the answer for us when anxiety overwhelms us. We need to set down the worries we are focusing on and sit at Jesus’ feet and listen.

So, the next time you are awake at 4:00, open your Bible and listen. Get down on your knees and pray but be sure to listen. Take out your journal and list your worries, and then look at them again while you listen to God as he swoops in and gathers them to his bosom.

In a world full of worries and distractions, be a Mary.

Listen to the Dawn Arise by Michelle Robertson

What, Me Worry?

Over the holidays I spotted a holiday edition of MAD Magazine. I was standing in the grocery store checkout line and there he was, gap-toothed Alfred E. Newman, grinning up at me. MAD Magazine is the iconic snark-fest, anti-establishment publication from the 70’s that was the delight of every sarcastic kid in my South Jersey neighborhood. Somebody would score a copy and it would be passed around like a precious loaf of homemade rye on a Bronx street corner. You would feast on every word and graphic until it was somebody else’s turn and you had to reluctantly give it over. If you were the lucky one to be at the end of the breadline, you got to savor it for weeks. I think (unfortunately) that a lot of my humor was formed in that savoring. I’m kind of proud and ashamed at the same time.

Alfred E. Newman was the de facto mascot, and he answered every satirical cultural problem with “What, me worry?” Everything was met with that response: the nuclear arms race, Watergate, the Vietnam War (Lordy, I am dating myself here)…no matter what was wrong, his response was the same. What, me worry?

Oh, how I long to have that attitude. Wouldn’t you like to be Alfred E. Newman for just one day and say back to every problem, “YOU CAN’T WORRY ME.” Instead, I think we actually go about our day looking for things to worry about. We succumb to a highly contagious disease known as what-if-itis and just what-if ourselves to death.

Meanwhile, God says to us, “What, you worry?”

Joshua 1 (New International Version)

”Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”

This incredible passage is God’s response to Joshua upon the death of Moses. MOSES. ‘Young Joshua, I want you to continue Moses’ work and lead the people into the promised land. There will be rivers to cross, Hittites to battle, hunger to address, and the people you are leading are not particularly known for their compliance and cooperation, not to mention that you are replacing MOSES, but you go, young Joshua! Take my people into a foreign land.‘

And we think we’ve got trouble!

God’s word to Joshua is the same to us today. Take another look at that problem you are worried about, and remember that God is telling you to not be afraid. He encourages you to not be discouraged. His COMMAND is to be strong and courageous. How can God make such an outrageous request of us as we stand here with our knees knocking? Because he promises to be with us wherever we go.

Wherever you go. The operating room, the divorce court, the psych ward, the funeral home, the test room, the angry conversation, the teenager’s bedroom…God is with you. Be strong. Be courageous. You are not alone.

What, you worry??

Look at the birds in the air. They neither sow nor reap, yet God provides for them. Who among you can add one single hour to your life by worrying?
Photo by Michelle Robertson