For a year and a half the drive to school each day was frustrating… and it wasn’t because of the traffic. No, it was because Gracie learned how to tell time. The entire ride she would watch the clock and worry about getting to school by 8:15. If there was even a CHANCE we might be late she would worry herself into tears. It did not matter what I said, or that 95% of the time her worries were for nothing— she was a mess anyway.
It was so annoying, that this year I issued a command: “I don’t want to hear anything about what time it is, and you are not allowed to start freaking out until 8:14!”
One day she looked at the clock and asked: “Mama- what time do I get to start to worry?”
I said: “Well, honestly it’s not ever supposed to be time to worry. Jesus tells us not to worry at all- ‘For who of you by worrying can add an hour to his life?’ Worry is wasted time.”
After a long silence she asked: “Mama, why does Jesus tell us not to worry?”
When she asks these kinds of questions I tend to ask her to think about it and answer them on her own first. So I said: “You tell me, Gracie. Why does Jesus tell us not to worry?”
“I don’t know!” she exclaimed. “That’s why I’m asking YOU!”
“Well, don’t ask me. Ask the Lord. Ask him right now why he tells you not to worry. He will give you an answer. Talk to him.”
It was very quiet for a long while. In that quiet time I asked God to give her an answer. Then the silence broke with her little voice stating: “He told me.”
“What did he tell you?” I asked.
Grace answered: “He said not to worry because it spreads, like all over me, and to you and Daddy and everyone around, and then they can get worried or upset, and it will spread it more. Worry spreads, and that is NOT good!”
Now, I have to say, this was not the theological answer I thought of regarding worry, but it wasn’t wrong. Proverbs 12:25 says “Anxiety in the heart of man causes depression” (that’s worry that spreads in us) and Psalm 37:8 says: “Do not fret- it only causes harm.” (That’s worry that spreads to others!) That is clearly what Gracie was trying to articulate from her talk with the Lord, and it was certainly what was going on in our car every morning.
More importantly, this word clearly came from the Lord and spoke to her heart. I know because: Would you like to guess how many days she has spent looking at the clock and worrying about getting to school on time since we had that conversation 4 months ago? ZERO.
Amazing. That’s 100% Jesus. I spent a year and a half talking myself blue in the face telling her not to worry, and yet she worried all the more. The Lord spoke to her in about 5 minutes and she has practically lost the entire spirit of worry in all things. In fact she gave me quite a sweet rebuke a few weeks ago.
I was not in a very good mood that day. I was in “Martha- mode,” worried and upset about many things, most especially the things on my “to-do list” at work. That worry was spreading all over me and into my relationships with Doug and Grace. Gracie (who, by the way, is 7 years old) noticed my foul demeanor and asked: “What’s wrong, Mama?”
I curtly answered: “I have a lot of things to do!”
She came up alongside me and put her arm around me and began to pat my back. In a very gentle voice she said most matter-of-factly: “Mama, you are just worrying. And that’s not good. You are worried and you are just thinking only of yourself. Mrs. Fulgham [That’s Gracie’s teacher] says when you’re only thinking of yourself you are sinning. So you’re just sinning. You need to just not think of yourself and think of Jesus.”
We might not like to admit it, but worry is a sin. Jesus commands us NOT to worry. Worry is basically fear. Fear is a lack of trust in the Lord and His sovereignty and provision. Apparently there are 365 verses in the Bible telling us not to worry, not to be anxious or not to fear. That’s one for every day of the year! It does not really matter what the worry is about, whether it is worry about our health, our finances, the lives of our loved ones, or the furry of things we need to accomplish- every worry points to a lack of trust in God and reliance on Him— instead trusting (or not!) in our own strength to “take care of it ALL!” For this particular moment in my life I have to give my Gracie credit and turn to Luke 10:38-42:
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.”
Gracie was reminding me in the midst of my “Martha-mode” of what Jesus says to those who are “worried’ about everything they have “to do.” Notice Martha is DISTRACTED. She is so busy she does not have the time to sit at Jesus’ feet and think of Him. But that is where Mary is— drinking in the words of her Lord.
Martha is also being SELF-CENTERED in her worry. Her complaint and demand to Jesus is: “Make her help me!” (Translation: Hey! Notice ME! Poor ME… I have to do everything!!!)
Yet, Jesus’ words to Martha are so tender. We know he is speaking with tenderness because he says: “Martha, Martha.” In the Hebrew culture and language the doubling of someone’s name was an emphasis of deep affection. Jesus is not scolding her— he is heart-broken for her. He is pointing her to the truth: Only ONE thing is needed— Him.
As I have pondered this passage over the last few weeks the part that most grabs me is this:
“Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken from her.”
Mary has CHOSEN:
Each day we choose. We choose to run around by the tyranny of the “to do’s” without enough time to do any of them, OR we choose the ONE THING we need- to sit at the feet of Jesus. It is amazing how much more I’m able to accomplish and how much better a day goes when I have chosen to sit at His feet first.
What IS BETTER:
The word IS here is significant- it is a statement of REALITY! The word BETTER indicates something of “higher quality.” It is not that the things Martha is doing are bad or invalid, but that she has placed them above Jesus. The reality is that Jesus is the higher quality choice. If Martha [or Monica!] would choose Him, then all those other “things” would fall into place as they ought without fret.
And it WILL NOT BE TAKEN from her:
This is the true treasure of sitting at the feet of Jesus. The best picture I could give of this is to mediate on Psalm 16. But in brief I can say this: At Jesus’ feet is freedom from worry. At His feet is peace. At his feet is wisdom. At His feet is guidance. At His feet we find rest, compassion, encouragement, freedom from fear, deliverance from sin, truth for life, manna from heaven, living water, the path to life, the voice of the Father who loves us, treasure from the One True King… Everything we need to face every day comes from the ONE thing we need: Jesus. And He will not be taken from us.
Each day the words of my Lord beckon: Monica, Monica….CHOOSE WHAT IS BETTER!
Preserve me, O God, for in You I put my trust.
O my soul, you have said to the Lord, “You are my Lord, My goodness is nothing apart from You.”
As for the saints who are on the earth, “They are the excellent ones, in whom is all my delight.”
Their sorrows shall be multiplied who hasten after another god; Their drink offerings of blood I will not offer, Nor take up their names on my lips.
O Lord, You are the portion of my inheritance and my cup; You maintain my lot.
The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places; Yes, I have a good inheritance.
I will bless the Lord who has given me counsel; My heart also instructs me in the night seasons.
I have set the Lord always before me; Because He is at my right hand I shall not be moved.
Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoices;
My flesh also will rest in hope. For You will not leave my soul in Sheol, Nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption.
You will show me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy;
At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.