April 22, 2012

A Day Spent Praising God Is Not a Day Wasted

I sit at home in my pajamas this evening having skipped church today and not feeling the least bit guilty about it. I assess the stillness of this house, the quiet; there is nothing but the sound of the dryer running and the birds chirping outside after a long silence due to an afternoon rain.  The late day sun is just breaking through the clouds for the first time, warming my cheek through the window. This is the beginning of adoration.  Adoration begins where everything else ends.  No agenda.  No noise.  No duty.  No distraction.  Just quiet.  Stillness.  Alone with God.  
It is no secret to my friends and family, or you my reader if you have kept up with me since October, that I’ve been restraining my Type-A personality to sit and wait on God.  I want to see what He will do if I let go of the reigns.  The goal has been to force my Martha personality to sit on her can beside Mary for a while.  What will God do when I stop busying and barking?   What will He say when He has my full attention?

I am still waiting on a great revelation, some booming call I’ve been too self-consumed to receive before.  Like the prayer of Jabez, I am waiting for God to expand my territory.  So far my territory is still small and unimpressive.

When the temptation rises to forsake this waiting, I remind myself that it truly is God’s job to make the most of me, my life, and my resources.  I am good at making plans, but what would He prefer to do with all of this?  So I relegate myself to the watchtower, refusing to commit to anything without His green light.

A recurring remembrance of the scene between Mary, Martha, and Jesus convicts me that I have not yet evolved to interact with my Lord the way Mary did.  As I sit at His feet, gazing into His face, I am reminded just how much it pleases Him to be adored.

Luke 10:38-42 says, “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 only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”
Have you prioritized action over adoration?  I have.
Action comes natural to me.  I assumed adoration could be inferred through my actions.  Yet Jesus says only one of the two is “needed”.  One of the two is “better”.  According to the Scriptures, serving is condoned, advised, and appreciated, but it is not imperative.  Only adoration is imperative.  Adoration is not to be inferred through acts of service, but prized before service regardless of whether service ever catches up.  Serving is leagues behind adoration in warming the heart of God.  How can I continue, in my human zest for efficiency, to dismiss adoration by devoting all of my energy and emotion to service?  This has been my track record.
Why do we serve God?   Why do we serve people? 
We serve God and man because Luke 10:27 says, “ . . . ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”
Yes.  This is exactly why we feel impassioned as well as obligated to serve God and man.  This is why I do not enjoy inactivity, sitting, and waiting, even if what I am waiting on is God’s leading.  I am eager to act.
In the same chapter where Jesus lays out the two greatest commandments, loving God and loving man, He follows that instruction with the scene where He tells Martha that her service to Him is not “needed”.  Why is this?  Could this be because her work lacked love?  Jesus identified worry and stress as her motivations.
Maybe Jesus tells us that work isn’t needed to love God and love man because He sees our hearts and knows how infrequently adoration actually spurs action.
Maybe the motive behind our service isn’t love, but a sense of accomplishment or a self-esteem boost.  Maybe our motive is a flight from boredom or toward social affiliation.  Maybe we fill our schedules so full of service that we squeeze all the adoration out of it.
Can you see yourself taking someone a home-cooked meal when they lose a loved one or have a baby and then later say an ugly comment about them?
Could you see yourself giving someone’s child a ride home from school and yet you judge them for their lifestyle choices?   Where is love in the service?
I am capable of generous actions which appear selfless but are motivated by my quest for self-worth.   Jesus wants to convince me that my worth isn’t measured by my actions.  My value is measured by the price He paid for my sins.  Do I believe Him?   Will I stay seated at His feet long enough to discover my self-worth in His gaze?  Can I crucify my gnawing urge to serve long enough to encounter true adoration?
When I get restless in inactivity I replace my negative thoughts with this one,
“A day spent praising God is not a day wasted.”

What does loving the Lord your God with all your heart look like?  Does it look like a preacher behind a pulpit in a three-piece suit with shiny cuff-links?  Does it look like a missionary dressed in the traditional clothing of the country where she serves?   No, it looks like Mary, sitting at Jesus’ feet soaking up every second of His presence, having no other priority, not saying a word, not asking questions or making petitions, just listening and adoring.
What does loving your neighbor as yourself look like?  Does it look like the man outside mowing his neighbor’s yard while they are on vacation?  Does it look like the woman shopping for school supplies to donate to the under-privileged?   No, it looks like the elderly gentleman privately on his knees grieving over his prayer list, loving uninterrupted.
Oh how misled we are by what our eyes see.  God sees the heart where love lives.
These independent quotes from “The Practice of the Presence of God” by Brother Lawrence pieced together form the message that action crowds adoration.  May I strive to become a worshipper first above any call to action.
“It is, however, necessary to put our whole trust in God, laying aside all other cares, and even some particular forms of devotion, though very good in themselves, yet such as one often engages in unreasonably, because these devotions are only means to attain to the end.
I have looked on God as the Goal and End of all the thoughts and affections of the soul.
That the end we ought to propose to ourselves is to become, in this life, the most perfect worshippers of God we can possibly be, as we hope to be through all eternity.” ~ Brother Lawrence

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