On September 21, 2015, I was in a hole. Not a physical hole; a dark night of the soul kind of hole. (This is best explained through the lens of Peter Scazzero’s “Emotionally Healthy Spirituality” – check it out.) Without getting into all the gory details, I was a mess: personally & in all of my “roles” (man, husband, father, son, friend, pastor, etc…)
That particular day, I came across an “ad” on FaceBook that my friend David posted, advertising a 9-month invitation to participate in Spiritual Direction (SD) with him. I was down & desperate, so I thought, “Why not? Could it get any worse?” & I reached out to him & set up my 1st meeting. Basically, I’d describe spiritual direction as the process that happens when a trained ‘director’ sits with a person on a regular basis (for me it is 1x/month for 1 hour,) for the purpose of pursuing spiritual growth within the context of Holy-Spirit led questions, silence, reflection, some conversation, & prayer. (Very oversimplified definition, I know. But, I wanted to give you something here… & it is definitely NOT “finding a spiritual guru who will tell you what to do & how to do it. Sitting with someone & being fully present is an incredible gift to the one receiving the gift of presence – both of God & of the director.)
Anyway, over the last 5 years, I’ve seen how God used this 1 hour/month to transform & “grow” me in an ongoing manner. The focus rarely has been on my role as a pastor; it is 99.99% about me, the man, pursuing growth in my relationship & understanding of God. Spiritual direction has played a key role in the overall plan God has used in/on me to make me more like Jesus. This has never been more true than over the last 5+ months of the pandemic, quarantine, & chaos that we all have experienced due to the COVID-19 world shutdown tour.
Like you, I’ve been forced to revisit my WHOLE LIFE over these last months: my devotions, my life-rhythms, the things I do/don’t do on just about every level. One issue I’ve wrestled with my whole life is equating my worth/value with what I am doing/producing. This isn’t just a Louie problem; its something that many, many people embrace as our culture subtly (& not so subtly) reinforces the message that busyness, productivity, doing, & accomplishments are what are valued & important & should be pursued.
I’ve battled in the “being vs. doing” war for years, & I’ve seen great growth in my life… I (mostly) structured my life to give myself time to BE (being physically & mentally present with people, celebrating a Sabbath, taking regular vacations, not over-scheduling myself, etc…) The pandemic & forced stoppage has (temporarily?) taken away our ability to ‘get away.’ (I find it easy to get away & be on vacation when I am far from home. Mexico is nice.) Three short getaways & a 2 week Puerto Vallarta anniversary trip cancelled. I’ve spent a lot of time talking to God about this – “So, if I can’t GET AWAY for the times we scheduled for rest, recharging, & connecting with each other, WHAT am I going to do to make sure I don’t slip back into doing all the time?”
Yesterday during my spiritual direction time, this same theme (being vs. doing) came up. As I was pondering one of the questions David asked me, I got a picture in my mind of the interactions of the two sisters, Mary & Martha, with Jesus. (Luke 10:38-42)
You may have heard this one – its where Jesus goes to the sisters’ house & one of them, Martha, rushes around doing chores & sprucing the place up (the Savior is here! Of course the place needs to be clean, right?.) But while Martha is cleaning up a storm, her sister, Mary, just sits at Jesus’ feet. Martha gets ticked off & finally asks Jesus to make Mary help out… & Jesus’ gently corrects her & reminds her that Mary has chosen the BETTER part by just sitting & being with Him. (BTW: Kate Miner has an incredible song that addresses this, “Prodigal Martha” which for some reason I can’t find a free recording on the inter-webs, so you’ll have to do with just the lyrics. Buy the album – Prodigal Martha on her SITE. You’ll thank me later.)
The image of the 2 sisters has been one that God has used for YEARS to remind me of His invitation for me to JUST BE with Him… I don’t need to be constantly occupied with stuff (even good, well-meaning, church-y stuff…) but to be occupied with Him. These days, I’d even say that most of the time, I would readily identify with Mary the BE-er more than I would Martha the DO-er.
And then God interrupted my thought process with an image of a list of chores that I was rehearsing in my head, stuff that needed to be done if/when I’m with Jesus doing my Mary impersonation. Yes, I might be sitting at Jesus’ feet, but was I really listening to Him, or was I looking at my chores, my to-do list?
I felt a gentle nudge in my Spirit & ‘heard’ God say, “You’re coming to Me & you know that I want you to just BE here with Me, but you’re still thinking that somehow, someway, that it isn’t enough, that you aren’t enough for Me when you just BE. And you’re rehearsing this list & I want to tell you: ‘THERE IS NO CHORE LIST.'”
That realization cut me to the heart: there’s no chore list? God isn’t bored with the idea of me just BEING with Him? He’s not waiting impatiently, (in my head at least) for me to get moving & get doing? To get the chores done?
I am enough because HE is enough, & what He says, goes.
In the way that only God can, He took me on a mental review of how my Bible-reading time has shifted over the last several months. It’s no longer a minimum list of chapters or a minimum time to be fulfilled… more & more, it’s morphed into a “I read & then reflect until I’m done. There were several more examples He brought to my mind, but suffice it to say, He re-showed me that He IS transforming me, & is inviting me to:
- Keep sitting at His feet on a regular basis
- Put away the chore list, the mental arrangement of things to do because He said so – there is no chore list.
- Just BE. – (if you’ve never clicked on the “JUST BE” link, click on it. GREAT song by Jesus Culture & Kim Walker-Smith. You’ll thank me later.)
I wept. And I came away from that time feeling different. I knew that God said I am enough because HE is enough, & that He enjoys time with me just because… not because of what I can do, but because we’re together. My heart is lighter & I’m feeling some of my Type-A personality fading away to the point that it is getting difficult to hear the ticking of the clock that’s always run in my head…
You are enough because HE is enough. Just BE. And great news: There IS NO chore list…