Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. (Luke 10:40)
My life, especially this new life that I have been living for the past year and a half, is absolutely filled with preparations. It seems like I am always preparing for something, and oftentimes many somethings all at the same time: small groups I am leading, retreats I am facilitating, events at which I am speaking, etc., etc., etc. It is really easily if I am not careful, because of all of this preparing, to allow it to interfere with my prayer--the life of God that desires to grow within me. In fact, if I am not very careful the two (my preparation and my prayer) can get easily enmeshed and entangled. Now, on the surface that might sound like a good thing, and I am sure it can be, but I am not talking about a good enmeshing or entangling. I am talking about the kind of enmeshing and entangling that causes me to lose sight of the voice of God in me and to me. I recognized it again this morning as I was reading this very passage. God was speaking to me, He had a word for me, and before He knew it I had rushed off into preparation-mode about how this might apply, or be used in the lives of the people I would be sitting with or standing before in the days ahead. I had missed it. I had once again taken something that God was trying to say to me and converted it quickly into a lesson for others. I had once again skimmed over the surface of God's word to me in order to figure out how and why it might also be God's word to someone else. And all of the sudden His word to me, and ultimately and ironically His word to them, was lost or diluted or skimmed over. It was not listened to and reflected on and savored and prayed in like it was given to be. And the funny thing is, that because I had run so quickly from prayer to preparation, everybody loses.
I simply cannot allow my prayer to get diverted or waylaid or sidetracked; I can't allow it to become enmeshed and/or entangled with my preparation if I ever want God's word to have any lasting impact and power in my own heart and soul. The flow must always go the opposite direction. Preparation cannot determine my prayer, my prayer must always determine my preparation. The natural flow of the Spirit is that God's word and my prayer speak to and impact my life, and then whatever things I am preparing must flow out of His life and His voice deep within me. Only if my preparation flows out of my prayer will it ever have the power and the value it was intended to have. It takes great attention to keep these two distinct because they have a tendency to grow side-by-side within us and get easily entwined without us even recognizing it, until we begin to become dried up or burnt out or overwhelmed within and start to ask ourselves, "What is going on within me? Where is this coming from?" It is one of the great and subtle tensions (and dangers) of ministry, therefore I must keep watch.
Lord Jesus, help me. Help me stop preparing and start paying attention.