When the boys were little the Christmas season was preceded by the “clean out” season. I could not stand the thought off adding new toys, clothes, games and gadgets to the already unruly piles of toys, clothes, games and gadgets populating my home! For one thing, it’s wasteful. If the clothes didn’t fit my boys anymore, I knew there were boys in and around our neighborhood they would fit. If my boys had outgrown a toy or game, I knew there were other boys who would love to play with it. My other motive for cleaning out was more selfish. It just felt good to pare down, straighten up, get rid of some stuff. AND - will miracles never cease – the boys seemed to enjoy what they had left when there was less of it. Toys that had been hiding on a shelf for months became the new focus. Forgotten Lego sets were opened and assembled. Old favorites became new friends again. And when those bright and shiny, wished-for Christmas toys appeared, they had a space cleared out and reserved for them so they would not get lost in chaos of daily life.
Sometimes my own closet presents the same dilemma. Crammed full of perfectly good clothes I look in and lament, “I have nothing to wear today!” How does that happen? Funny thing is, when I clean out my closet, take inventory, pare down and reorganize, I suddenly discover that with less, I actually have more.
Today’s world is a smorgasbord spread before us – endless opportunities, myriad choices. Beautiful and exciting prospects beckon daily through media, friends, family, church and community. Like my kids used to collect toys, my tendency is to accumulate activities, responsibilities, distractions, and interests and shove them into the closet of my life till it’s overflowing - until the fullness feels empty. Can you relate? When my life is crammed full of stuff that is not the best stuff, it is just like my closet. I look at it and lament, “Why do I feel empty today?” When in reality, I am too full!
So I take inventory. I assess the whole of my life to see what it’s really filled with. What I find isn’t always what I’d like to find. But what I find does help answer that key question that resurfaces from time to time, Why am I feeling empty today?
Mary (of the infamous “Martha and Mary”) understood this paradox.
As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”
“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 10:38-42 NIV
Mary has chosen what is better. Mary took inventory. It may have taken her the blink of an eye – or possibly the better part of an hour of rising discontent as she watched her sister frantically scurry around. Like us, Mary had choices. Perhaps Martha was urging her to sweep the crumbs from the kitchen floor or swat down the cobwebs in the corner. Maybe Mary made the best bread in town and Martha longed to set those steaming loaves on her beautiful table. Mary’s options were all worthwhile endeavors. She could attend to good things like creating the perfect table setting or cooking up the tastiest of fare – or she could let all that go in favor of what was better. What was best. She could sit quietly, eagerly and be filled at the feet of Jesus.
The lesson learned from this glimpse into Jesus’ visit with Martha and Mary is one I need to revisit again and again. My guess is that after Mary sat at Jesus’ feet she was much more equipped to look at the rest of her life and discern what was better as opposed to what was simply good. Why? Because she had experienced genuine fullness by being empty. Only when she released all else and simply sat attentively at Jesus’ feet could she be truly full.
What fills the closet of your life and makes you feel empty? What good things in your life are not really necessary and are keeping you from the life-giving, joy-producing, essential time you need at Jesus’ feet? Take inventory today and choose what is best. Sit at the feet of Jesus.
For He satisfies the longing soul and fills the hungry soul with good. Psalm 107:9 AMP