I read a funny the other day. Apparently it has been around for a while with more than a few versions: A tired hunter out in the wilds stumbled into a camp.
“Am I glad to see you,” he said. “I’ve been lost for three days.”
“Don’t get too excited, friend,” the other hunter replied. “I’ve been lost for three weeks.”
The first hunter said, “Do you have any ideas? “
“I’ve been shooting into the air once in awhile to see if someone will find us,” the second hunter said with a sigh.
“How about you and I both shoot into the air three times; someone is bound to come and find us. So they each shot into the air three times, but no one came. After a while, they tried it again; still no response.
Finally, the second hunter said, “I suppose we can try again, but it better work this time. We’re down to our last three arrows.”
I think it is pretty easy to wake up one morning and find ourselves lost. Not lost in the “driving a car and desperately guessing which exit to take” sense, but in the, “I feel really confused about what is going on in my life and I’m not finding any answers” sense. Losing our way, or losing our meaning, our joy or our focus can be startling. It is easy to wake up one morning and saying to ourselves, “Who am I fooling; I really don’t know what the heck I’m doing.” We never intended to be fooling anyone much less ourselves, but the reality is that it is pretty easy to get lost in life, even if we devoted believers in Christ. It shouldn’t be. But it happens all the time. What is worse, is that if we are lost, and we don’t have any idea about how to be found, then we are really lost.
Thankfully, we are never lost, because Christ knows exactly where we are. The reality is that many times we just don’t know where we are. There are some solutions to finding our way out of place with no light or few signs. However, before embarking on a trek to a place of meaning or purpose, it is a good time to consider how we became lost. We are far better listeners when we are lost, than when we think we know the way. But the answer to “how” is a varied answer. It can be anything from our own pride, vanity or self-concern which helped us feel like lost sheep. Or it can be any number of griefs, burdens, stresses, or broken relationships of one sort or another. Whatever it was that answers the “how” we became lost, when we called for help it seemed the Lord didn’t answer us. Once again I’ll say, “Thankfully, we are never lost because Christ the Good Shepherd knows exactly where we are.”
The more important answer has to do with the “why”. Why did I become lost? Me being the idiot sheep that I am, I was paying attention to the next spot of grass, or the beautiful place of shade on the hillside “way over there,” and became over time, accustom to drifting from the Shepherd. His voice becomes more difficult to hear the farther away I am. I had no idea the danger lurking nearby, or the crazy thickets I could get my “wool” stuck in. so the answer to “why” is that I drift to serve my own needs, hungers, wishes, desires, longings without keeping an eye on the intentions of my Shepherd. In other words, I could have prevented a lot of “lost-ness” in my life had I prepared myself for the dangers both in me and in the world around me.
There is an old proverb you might be familiar with: “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” In the matter of life and living with God, I am learning that the most important prevention is staying focused on the things God says are important. In the gospels, Luke records for a us a situation that Jesus inadvertently walks into. Two sisters, Martha and Mary who, also happen to live with their brother Lazarus in the town of Bethany have opened their home to Jesus and His students who are traveling with Him. In the course of preparations for the meal, the older sister perceived that the younger one became distracted from her home responsibilities as they prepared the meal. She became upset.
Jesus came to a village where a woman named Martha lived. She welcomed him into her home. She had a sister named Mary. Mary sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was busy with all the things that had to be done.
She came to Jesus and said, “Lord, my sister has left me to do the work by myself. Don’t you care? Tell her to help me!”
“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered. “You are worried and upset about many things. But few things are needed. Really, only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better. And it will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:38-42)*
I like Martha. I identify with her. She loves creating an inviting home for friends and parties. I do to. Martha’s hospitality is a great thing. Based on another story involving this family (found in the book of John) regarding the sickness and death of her brother Lazarus, it seems the whole town of Bethany is in mourning. This tells us that the family was well-regarded and well-loved and I suspect that much of the relationship that Martha’s family had with the townspeople had much to do with Martha and her welcoming spirit.
So Martha does what she does best. She makes preparations for a delightful meal for the Lord and His disciples. I can imagine feeding a motley crew of 13 or more hungry young men is a little bit of an undertaking and the meal is certainly not going to fix itself. So, it is not surprising that Martha is just a bit indignant of her younger sister who is sitting at the feet of Jesus and listening to His teaching. “Lord, do You not care…?” Have you ever said that to the Lord, out loud or in your heart? “Don’t you care about what’s going on in my life…why are these things happening?” Was the Lord’s answer to Martha, “You’re right, I don’t care?” Can you imagine if the Lord had said that to Martha? She probably would take that as a personal rejection and walk out of the home. But that is not what Jesus says. With great affection, He calls her name twice, “Martha, Martha” and then in so many words says, “I care that you are caring about the wrong things.”
That’s an important us to hear. Sometimes we are worried and bothered about the wrong things, or perhaps we concern ourselves with the things that do not matter to God. So think of it, does the Lord care that He may not receive a hot lunch on clean dishes? Not at all. He cares that Mary wants to know more about the Kingdom of God. Martha is upset that Jesus is not upset at the same thing she is. Wow! “Tell her to help me!” She’s frustrated not only at her younger sister, but at the Lord, because the Lord is not thinking like she is. And this gets us to a very important point in our own life: The reason we study God’s word and spend time with Him in prayer or meditation is so that God can reveal to us individually, what is and is not important to Him. The Christian life is not about getting God into our universe, but rather getting ourselves into His universe. When we learn to know and embrace what matters to God, we can then adjust our own life around the things He is concerned about.
Martha is convinced that her younger sister Mary is looking for an excuse to goof off or relax. Nobody enjoys a sibling who skates while they are left paying the bill. It is easy to look at what others are doing and feel like we are doing most of the work. But now I have to admit that I identify with Martha, and that I have chosen the less important thing to be involved with or concerned about.
I’m sure many of you might be familiar with the “should’ves,” the “would’ves,” and the “could’ves.” We can be swallowed up in regret and guilt because of our own version of perfectionism, and the way we want our universe to operate. Did you happen to notice that in Martha’s household, there were two meals taking place for everyone in the home: There was the meal that the Lord had prepared and the meal that Martha had prepared. And the Lord’s response was this, “Martha, only one meal is necessary today and your sister Mary has chosen to dine at my table…why don’t you come and join us.”
Every time I think of these words of Jesus, I let out a big sigh. I need to remind myself that there will be a time to eat later and a breakfast tomorrow. I have never starved. But when the Lord prepares a meal for our spirit; a nourishment which can bring permanent freedom and peace, answers and directions leading to joy, these are the foods which feed people for all eternity. The meal Mary chose to eat was going to last for a lifetime. The meal Martha was preparing would only bring pleasure for a few hours. Now I hear the Lord saying, “Chris, dear Chris…you are worried and bothered about so many things…but only one thing is necessary…spend some time with me and I will satisfy your heart with good things. Your time with me will never be wasted.”