Making The Hard Decision to ChangeFr. Barnabas Powell
I was watching a well-known leadership teacher speak recently (I like to keep up with this world since I find this both helpful and cautionary) and he was commenting about the necessity of making decisions to change. And he used some commonly heard excuses about why someone doesn’t live up to their potential: “I am not a leader. Then CHANGE and become a leader!”
I get where he’s coming from and I agree to a certain extent, but the challenge here is HOW do I change? And WHAT do I do with the time between the moment I decided to change and the arrival at the place I changed to? In other words, I’m clear about where I am AND I’m clear about where I need to be, but HOW do I get from one place to another? Learning the path of spiritual maturity and even emotional maturity takes a willingness to humbly admit I need a Guide.
No wonder there are so many books that try to answer that question! It’s the common struggle of all of us who know we need to change but struggle how to get from one place to another!
Look at a very familiar passage that is today’s Lesson 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!”
Everybody knows this story well, and all of us identify with either Mary or Martha at some point in our lives. Frankly, I’ve identified as “both” even on the same day! But the power of this passage isn’t in merely seeing yourself as one or the other; it’s actually hearing the wisdom from the Lord as to what are the keys to growing in your faith and choosing the healthiest path.
First notice Jesus prioritizes communion over busyness or even heredity! Jesus doesn’t say that Martha’s work is bad or even useless, but He does say that Mary has chosen the “good portion.” Isn’t that a wonderful phrase, “good portion?” It communicates a prioritizing of time and energy to get the most out of the moment. To be sure, being a good hostess is important. Serving your guests is good. BUT, being at the feet of Jesus when He’s right there in your house is a better use of your time and energy at that moment. How many times have we prioritized something else, even a good thing, over being with God in prayer or worship? We lose the “good portion” by not focusing on the moment we are in, and we miss the ability to move from frenzied worry to peaceful communion with God and each other.
Next, I love how the Lord deals with the amazed cry of the woman in the crowd! It reveals so much wisdom and insight into real spiritual, emotional, and even physical growth. The lady in the crowd wants to say how wonderful the Lord’s mother is, and Jesus redirects her praise to the proper reason WHY His mother is to be praised – Hearing the Word of God and keeping it! Jesus redirects the woman’s sincere words to the heart of how we humans are called to grow in our relationships with each other and our relationship with God. We are called to stay awake to the reality that, if we are going to remember the “good portion” and spend focused time with God, we actually then have to follow through with that discipline by “keeping” the Word we hear.
So, the key to solving mine and your dilemma of moving from one place to another in our spiritual growth is the ability to discern when to sit and when to move. That can only come from a concerted and focused commitment to allowing the Faith to reorient your priorities and actions. And that’s going to take you exercising your will to put the practice of your Faith FIRST before all other priorities.
A perfect example of this wisdom is in the commemoration we honor today in the Orthodox Church. It seems to be a bit far-fetched and even a bit frivolous UNTIL you examine the wisdom behind remembering the Placing of the Honorable Sash of the Theotokos. While accounts differ historically, the message is clear: the Mother of God loves us and desires our salvation by always directing us to her Son, our Savior. This remembrance recalls the time one of the few relics we have of the Theotokos, her sash was moved from Zela in Cappadocia to a special church built to specifically house this precious treasure in the capital of the Roman Empire, Constantinople. The sash represents the protecting prayers of the Mother of God and history recounts times when the City was in danger, this relic was used to draw the population to prayer and dependence on Christ for salvation. Once again, it is because the Mother of God heard the Word and obeyed that made her the beacon of devotion. She invites us to always remember that it is only in prioritizing our lives focused on Christ that we are ever clearly oriented toward the life God intended us to have.
Today, aren’t you tired of spinning your wheels stuck in the rut of “well, that’s just the way I am?” It’s time to learn how to discern when to sit and when to move. Do this by living a Normal Orthodox Life!
P.S. O Ever-Virgin Theotokos, shelter of mankind, you have bestowed upon your people a mighty investure, even your immaculate body’s raiment, and sash, which by your seedless childbirth have remained incorrupt; for in you nature and time are made new. Wherefore, we implore you to grant peace to the world, and great mercy to our souls.