Sharon is a clinical psychologist whom I have known for over thirty-seven years, and a “post-it note” friend; a group so small in number that all their names would fit on a post-it note. They are the people I know I can trust; who love me unconditionally, and wholeheartedly, and will always tell me the truth, liberally seasoned with grace, even when it is hard or costs them dearly to do it.
My friend took on the role of counselor during one of the darkest period of my life, when the only things that kept me going were my three children, and a stubborn belief that God is not a liar. We lived over three thousand miles apart in those pre-Skype days, but phone calls and emails helped to erase the distance as I desperately clung to her encouragement and advice like a life raft, among the floating debris that remained of my life, until…
One day I was complaining about the latest injustice that I felt made me a ‘victim’ yet again, when after a long pause Sharon said to me,
“Annie, the truth is, we have the life we choose.”
Whaaaaaaa….t?! Is that the kind of nonsense her psychology training had taught her to say at a time like this? I was thinking somebody should burn that text book! But Sharon has long since proved herself to be a true and loyal friend, who lovingly tells me the truth I need to hear, to get me to confront whatever is wrong inside of me; to treat the disease, not just the symptoms. That is the kind of person everyone needs to be a post-it note friend, and why I think that song “Jesus, Friend of Sinners” should really be, “Jesus, Post-it Note Friend of Sinners Like Me”!
Once, He was visiting the home of His friend Lazarus, who lived with his sisters Martha and Mary. As the older sister, Martha took on the role of hostess and during the visit and was busy with all the work of entertaining. Been there, done that! Plan the meal in advance and do all the food shopping. Deep-clean the house and put fresh towels put in the guest bathroom. Cooking and baking, setting a perfect table, making sure everybody was served, that the food was kept warm and on and on. All this work was going on in the house while Mary was sitting at Jesus’ feet listening intently as if the dinner was going to serve itself.
When Martha could not take it any longer she complained to Jesus, basically telling Him that He really should make Mary come help her. Jesus’ response was kind, but directed to the heart of the matter,
“Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:41-42
That is what He said, but what I hear Him saying is,
“Martha, sweetie, you know I love you, but Mary not helping you is the least of your problems. You are letting so many things worry and distract you, when you really need to do only one thing. Stop all your busyness, and just listen to me so you can get the answers you need. The work can wait, and if or when you do get back to it, your heart will be at peace. Mary knows this instinctively and has chosen wisely, and I am not going to tell her to do anything different.”
Ouch! Martha was not doing anything wrong by being a good hostess, and her request for help from Mary was legitimate, but her real problem was the crippling fear and anxiety she had allowed to take over her life, which Jesus wanted to replace with peace.
How easy it is to see circumstances and/or other people as both cause and effect of all that is wrong with me, especially if there is even the smallest crumb of legitimacy in the claim, which of course there always is because neither our lives nor the people in it will ever be perfect. With such imperfection so readily available we can go through our entire lives without ever looking inward for the source or our discontent, and continually explain away or excuse our unhealthy behavior even while professing a desire to be better. The only cure is a generous dose of undiluted truth, carefully administered with grace and love.
On another day Jesus stopped by the bed of a man who had been sick for thirty-eight years and asked him a question,
“Do you want to be made well?” John 5:6
Doesn’t that just beg for a sarcastic answer? “Duh!” or “Why would you think that?” or “No, I’m just here for the fresh air.” It is only as you read the rest of the story, that you understand why the question Jesus asked him was very necessary.
The man was a complainer, always blaming somebody, and always had an excuse for everything. Truth be told being sick was working well enough for him, and if he got better he would actually have to take responsibility for his life and behavior, losing his ‘victim’ identity. By the time Jesus gets around to telling him,
“See, you have been made well! Do not sin any more, so that nothing worse happens to you.” John 5:14,
…we begin to realize that his wrongdoing, not his physical sickness, was at the root of his problems.
So, here’s the thing, trials may come over which you have absolutely no control, but you absolutely control how you respond, and the choices you make. You do have the life you choose. Resist the temptation to excuse yourself or lay blame at the feet of other people or your circumstances. You have at least one post-it note Friend in Jesus who truly loves you, and His words are the truth you need to hear, not the fluff you want to hear. Do what is right, not only what is easy, and….just live the thing.