“There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.”
All my life I had heard that I must serve others, that I must serve the church, that I must give of myself entirely. I was told that my faith could only get stronger if I spent my time praying rosaries and chaplets, reading the Bible, going to youth group, putting on retreats, giving talks, teaching CCD…always serving, always doing.
By the time I realized that all of this doing was actually keeping me from growing in my faith, it was too late. I had committed myself too deeply. I had obligations to fulfill, but that’s all my acts of service became, obligations that I was tied to.
I spent years trying to find more, but I was never able to find any freedom from all of the things that I was doing. Every time I tried letting go of some of my obligations, I would have to deal with the emotions of the people that I was letting down: anger, sadness, pride. Some people made it very clear they believed that if I wasn’t serving in the way they thought I should be serving, then my faith must be getting weak.
I cared about it all, at first; but as time progressed, I just got tired of everything. I felt trapped, and instead of looking for a way out, I let myself become numb to all of my feelings. I sang, I smiled, I put on a happy face, but I didn’t find joy in any of it. I prayed for everyone and everything, in hopes that my prayers would fix someone’s life, if not my own; but after a while, my prayers became just words. I kept hoping and praying that God would tell me what He wanted from me, but the answer never came.
It wasn’t until this past summer that I realized how far I had let myself fall into the emptiness and was finally able to find my freedom again.
My freedom came when my question was finally answered: All that God wants from me is that I just be. None of my acts of service are any good if I’m not happy simply being with God. God wants me to find happiness in his presence without having to do anything beyond just sitting with him. To put it simply, I was too much of a Martha and not enough of a Mary (Luke 10:38-42). I had to teach myself to be more like Mary, and the only way to do that was to just stop. I had to stop focusing on serving and doing so much so that I could be closer to God, so that I could make my faith stronger, and so that I wouldn’t be empty anymore.
It’s true that God calls us all to serve others, to wash one another’s feet (John 13)…but what happens when we run out of water? We can’t keep washing if we have an empty pitcher. We can’t keep serving if we have nothing left to give. Jesus clearly shows this when he washes his disciples feet.
“I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do.”
His model was not that His disciples should only wash other people’s feet, but that they also allow their own feet to be washed. The emptiness can’t be filled if we don’t allow others to serve us as much as we serve them.
Faith doesn’t come from how much we serve or from how much we are involved in other people’s lives; it comes from finding freedom in the presence of God.
“We worship with the sound of broken shackles falling to the ground…I have been set free…”
-Sanctified by Mercy Me
Originally Written and Posted: December 14, 2009 at 10:06pm