It’s Both/And!Fr. Barnabas Powell
That famous Southern humorist Lewis Grizzard once said “Yankees don’t understand that the Southern way of talking is a language of nuance. What we can do in the South is we can take a word and change it just a little bit and make it mean something altogether different.”
Ha! funny. But the humor contains a truth (humor often does) that is a missing element in much of our social interactions today. You see, to get the nuance of any situation requires the hard work of communion. We text each other and miss the powerful facial expressions and body language of face to face communication. We post on social media and even with our precious emojis and Gifs, we struggle and miss the point. We protest one side and forget that the other side really believes we are as wrong as we think they are!
And we stay divided!
So, how do I break this destructive pattern of Either/Or, this loss of nuance? How do I move beyond the yo-you spiritual life to a healthy, mature Christian lifestyle? I have to learn to repent (metania). I have to learn to retrain my mind to stay awake to the balanced life of a sober Christian. I have to adopt the Both/And approach to BEING a Christian; the hard work of communion IN authentic face to face community, and not just talking about it.
Look at our Lesson today in Luke 10:38-42, 11:27-28.
At that time, Jesus entered a village; and a woman called Martha received him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving; and she went to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve you alone? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things; one thing is needful. Mary has chosen the good portion, which shall not be taken away from her.” As he said this, a woman in the crowd raised her voice and said to him, “Blessed is the womb that bore you, and the breasts that you sucked!” But he said, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!”
It is BOTH Hearing AND Keeping the Word that makes for a blessed life. It is the nuance of making yourself available to hear the Word and then moving beyond merely having the faith wash over you to actually practicing what you’ve heard. It’s both/and not either/or! This recipe for spiritual growth, progress, freedom, and joy simple cannot be tinkered with; it must be practiced. Just like a balanced diet of physical food and activity is necessary for a healthy body, so a balanced spiritual diet of purposefully exposing myself to God’s Word AND practicing His Word is necessary for a healthy spiritual life!
And the KEY to this Both/And approach is the hard work of relationships. It’s only in the active exercise of your will to choose the “good portion” of intimacy with Jesus that you will EVER be able to be in relationship with others, especially others who aren’t “like” you! The nuances and intricacies of knowing someone else will forever be a mystery to you as long as you’ve not begun the hard work of learning to be intimate with God. That’s why Mary was praised by the Lord for her choice. Jesus wasn’t upset with Martha AND He wasn’t discounting her hospitality or her labor. He was holding up for all of us to see that there will NEVER be enough insight in my heart to truly know and love others IF I haven’t prioritized my knowing and loving God first!
So, today, do you catch yourself misunderstanding even people you’re close to? Do the nuances and difficulties of relationships scare you away and leave you lonely? Perhaps the source of the problem and the fear of intimacy begins with the missing element of knowing and loving God first. When I choose the “good portion” of putting my relationship with God before all other relationships, I get all my other relationships thrown in as a blessing! That’s why being Orthodox on Purpose changes the world!
P.S. We are closing in on the end of our 100 Campaign, and I have to say I am so grateful for those brave and loving people who said “Yes, I’m 1 of the 100.” You still have time to add your name to that list. Just go to Patreon.com/FaithEncouraged and choose which level of support you wish! There’s even a way to get an autographed copy of the book “A Faith Encouraged!”