For the last year, our oldest daughter, Abby, has been in search for what she has been calling her "grown up" job. Last summer she graduated from Saint Louis University. Since the time she started at SLU, she and her boyfriend, who she met when we lived in Chicago, had a plan of living in the same town again after graduation. After she graduated from college, she moved back in with us and the search for a job began.
I had been saying to her things like, "Sweetie, you just have to trust the process" or "God has something in mind that you can't even imagine right now" and "It doesn't matter how many NOs you get, you just need the right YES." I was saying all of the encouraging, parental things, but the truth is I was starting to worry. I was starting to panic.
I was watching her get frustrated and even crushed when things were not working out in the way she had hoped, AND I could not fix it. Then a couple of weeks ago, after several interviews with a company, she was offered her "grown up" job at their corporate offices in the Chicago land area. All of a sudden, things started moving in fast-forward motion.
In fact, last Sunday my husband, Todd, and Abby left immediately after worship services at the church he pastors to find an apartment for her. By the time they came home on Monday night, she had a good idea of the area she wanted to live in and the apartment she wanted to rent.
On Tuesday, she applied for the apartment. That night, she and my husband called me on FaceTime to video chat and show me the pictures and videos they had taken of the apartment.
I wish I could tell you it was a beautiful mother/daughter bonding moment as I soaked in my daughter's dreams becoming a reality.
I wish I could tell you it was a beautiful mother/daughter bonding moment as she could see and hear how proud of her I was.
IT WAS NOT.
As she was narrating the video of the apartment, I was at my office, stealing glances at my laptop, trying to make some last minute changes to a presentation I would be making in the next hour at a church.
She could see I was distracted. All of the sudden she said, "Mom, I am going to let you go. I think you are too busy to listen."
Ouch, that hurt!
Well, that was tame compared to the follow up conversation I had with my husband.
Now, please keep in mind my husband is a very patient, kindhearted person who is incredibly supportive of my ministry and me. The words he said to me (and I share with you verbatim) are words I needed to hear.
He called me a few minutes after Abby got of the phone with me and he said this,
"I know you are busy, but right now what our little girl needs the most is you. She is trying to act very grown up and she is. She wants you to see her like the independent woman you are, and she is. But, she is also still your little girl. Even though she is putting on a brave face, she is scared. This weekend, she will be moving into her new home. Come Monday, she will start her new job. And Shana, come Monday, she will not live in our home anymore. You only have a few days left with her, and you can choose what you do with those days. Your work is still going to be there on Monday, your daughter will not."
OUCH!! Talk about a kick in the gut. For a few seconds, my mind went to all of my excuses and what I thought was some righteous indignation.
Then, I had a moment of clarity; my husband had given me a gift. I took a deep breath, called him back, and thanked him for the gift. He had given me the gift of tough love and an important reality check. My husband was 110% right. I was worried and distracted about many things and only one thing was needed. To that point, I had NOT chosen the better part.
Yet, with the gift of his rebuke, I could choose to do the one thing that was needed the most, and I did. Thursday night, we helped her pack the moving truck. On Friday, we drove the U-Haul up to the apartment and helped her unpack. On Saturday, we took her shopping and helped her settle in before we headed back home. Through it all, I was fully present--doing what I could to help our daughter, but most importantly, showing her in those moments that she was the most important thing to me.
I had a Martha moment being distracted, but I was able to receive the gift of having the opportunity to be like Mary--fully present in the moment, knowing how fleeting the NOW can be.
Let me explain. In the Gospel of Luke, we are told the story of Mary and Martha. Jesus is traveling and he came to a village where a woman named Martha lived. Jesus went to her house. Martha had a sister named Mary, and Mary sat at Jesus' feet and heard his word. Now Martha was burdened with a lot of serving; frustrated, she went to Jesus and said, "Lord, don't you care that my sister is letting me do all of the work. Tell her that she should help me."
Jesus said, "Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things, but in this moment only one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that thing which shall not be taken away from her."
So often this familiar story is present as an either/or situation. "Are you a Martha or are you a Mary?" I do not think Jesus was rebuking Martha for her gifts of service. There are times when those are the gifts that are needed the moment. I think Jesus' rebuke is about the fact that she was so distracted that she was missing out of the gift of being present with Jesus--something Mary was able to do in that moment.
The key was in the "knowing." Perhaps Mary had the "knowing" of what was needed in that particular moment. For me, this is the definition of discernment. Discernment can be that kind of knowing. It can also be a willingness to be humbled by persons and situations, which can serve to teach us what is most needed.
Yes, we all have our Martha distracted moments. May we learn from those moments. May we grow from those moments. May we get past our worries and distractions so that we can fully be present with our Savior and others and offer what is most needed.
Blessings, Rev. Shana Johnson, Conference Minister