Yesterday afternoon found me on the road having to be at a certain place at a certain time. It also found me in the midst of an absolute sea of traffic. I couldn’t believe what I was experiencing. Cars, trucks, big rigs, dump trucks, and school buses were everywhere. I kept thinking, “Where are all these people going?”
To understand my astonishment, you’ve got to know where I live. I live in little old Mitchell county, way up in the mountains of western North Carolina. Our total population is a little under 16,000. We roll up the sidewalks at night in our two towns. We know our neighbors’ business. When we dial a wrong number, we end up talking to the person for ten minutes.
My afternoon trip had me driving out of Mitchell county and into Yancey county. Yancey county isn’t much more than a twin sister to Mitchell. That’s what made the traffic so amazing. I’ve taken more trips through Mitchell and Yancey counties than I can count. I know what is normal for these roads. Yesterday, I felt like I was in downtown New York city.
I don’t know where you live, but I’m guessing that there are more cars on your roadways these days. It seems that we now average two or three cars per household. Honestly, it’s hard for me to feel sorry for the auto manufacturers. It’s plain to see that they’ve been highly successful at selling their products for a long time now. If they’re having financial troubles, it has to be because of inept management, sinful excess, greed, downright stupidity, or something. They’ve sold enough cars in the past to be monetarily solvent for years to come. Of course, I do feel for all the blue-collar workers who’ve lost their jobs. It’s just that it seems absurd that they had to lose those jobs. I mean, it’s not like people haven’t been buying cars!
But why am I fixating on cars today? I’m not. What I’m really fixating on is how BUSY we’ve become. Everybody seems to be running around to some place to do something. It makes me think of that Andy Griffith episode where the visiting preacher tells the Mayberry church folk to slow down and enjoy the simpler things of life. That was 1960s Mayberry. If that preacher wanted to preach that same message to today’s church folk, he’d have to leave an hour earlier just to account for the traffic to get to church.
There’s a Bible story that fits in here too. You’ve heard the one about Mary and Martha, haven’t you? They were the two sisters of Lazarus, the man Jesus raised from the dead. Luke 10:38-42 is the record of a visit that Jesus made to their home. While Martha was scurrying around the house, taking care of the serving, doing the work of a hostess, Mary “sat at Jesus’ feet and heard His word.” Finally, in thinly veiled anger and frustration with the whole scene, Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, don’t You care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her to help me.”
It seemed to be a perfect occasion for a Proverbs style lesson on the value of a work ethic. It seemed to be the right time for a good word about love being shown in service. It seemed to be a clear case of Martha having a legitimate argument. But Jesus didn’t think so. He reversed field and said, “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.”
I can’t help but wonder how those words made Martha feel. They had to hurt her feelings, didn’t they? Did tears well up in her eyes? Did she get even madder? Did her mouth drop open in utter disbelief at Jesus siding with Mary? The Bible doesn’t tell us. The lesson of the story isn’t hard to discern, though: No matter how busy you are, you must make time to “sit at Christ’s feet” and “hear His word.” This can be done through prayer, Bible study, or reading a daily devotion. Many people call it “having a quiet time.” The classic word for it is worship.
You say, “Russell, I understand what you are saying, and I really want to have such times in my life, but I’m just so busy.” Okay, here’s my advice to you: Make this a priority! A friend of mine was fussing at his wife because she didn’t exercise enough. He was running several miles each day, but she wouldn’t even look at the treadmill. She said, “I just don’t have the time.” He replied, “You’ve got to make it a priority.” A few days afterwards, he asked her what was for supper. She said, “I don’t know. I’m not fixing it. I’m doing the treadmill. I’M MAKING IT A PRIORITY.”
I’m not telling you to stop doing any of the dozens of things that are mandatory for your day. Trust me, Jesus knows all about what is mandatory. But I am telling you that you must build times of intimacy with Jesus into your life. Leave the beds unmade if that’s what it takes. The yard doesn’t have to be manicured. Let a few dishes pile up in the sink. Your car will just get dirty again. The clothes don’t have to be yanked out of the dryer the moment it cuts off. Wal-Mart will still be there when you get there. You might have enough bread and milk to delay that trip to the grocery store. You get the idea. Whatever else you get done each day, you must spend some “Mary” time with Jesus. And if you’re too busy to do that, you need to make some changes in your life. You’re busier than you need to be.