In my Executive Coaching work I often work with leaders who are approaching mid-life and are taking stock of their careers. They often ponder some deep questions, such as “Is that all their is?”, “Was all the sacrifice worth it?” or “What’s next?”
I sometimes ask them a few questions in return: “When you reach the end of your life, what do you want to be remembered for? What do you want your legacy to be? What’s the one thing that will matter?”
So far in almost 30 years of professional practice I’ve never once had anyone say they want to be remembered for all the overtime they worked, or for hitting their sales target every quarter or for winning “Employee of the Month” awards.
We have a tendency to let life overwhelm us, especially in times of stress. The causes can be varied. Perhaps we occupy ourselves with lots of activity in a vane effort to control our circumstances so as to feel less like victims. Or it’s possible that we use busyness to avoid reflecting on what’s really going on inside our hearts, out of fear of having to confront our insecurities. Or maybe we’ve succumbed to that most shallow of Millennial obsessions: FOMO (fear of missing out).
On some level, we’re all searching for purpose, significance and meaning. We were designed that way.
When it’s all said and done and we look back on how we’ve lived our lives, there’s only one thing that will really matter – our relationship with our Creator, God. He’s the “one good thing” in this world. No amount of well intended but ultimately self-serving activity, or even good deeds, will provide the present peace or the future glory that our souls ultimately crave. An intimate, humble and committed relationship with Jesus is all we really need.
That’s what Mary was focused on. She could’ve cared less about the catering or drinks supply for their family dinner party, or the number of ‘likes’ her friends and neighbours might give her and Martha for being gracious hosts. She wasn’t preoccupied with ‘posting selfies’ with their famous guest. She recognised Jesus for who He is – the promised Messiah, the source of all truth with words of eternal significance and the power over death (cf. John 11:32).
Martha also understood and believed in Jesus the Messiah (cf. John 11:17-27). Her theology was fairly solid, but just like us she was susceptible to the demands and distractions of this world. Even good things, like being a gracious host, can take on disproportionate significance, if we let them.
It’s interesting to note a brief but profound prayer uttered by Jesus which Luke recorded for us shortly before his description of Jesus’ encounter with Mary & Martha.
“In that same hour (Jesus) rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said, "I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, or who the Father is except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him." (Luke 10:21-22)
That’s the key to a life saving relationship with Jesus – a humble and teachable spirit, like an innocent child who acknowledges her need to a loving parent. That’s how Mary chose to engage with Jesus while she sat at His feet taking in every word, with an open mind and a soft heart. How do we spend our time each day? It’s a finite and very precious commodity. Every day is a gift from our Heavenly Father to be received with joy and invested wisely. How we choose to spend the time we are given will either result in even greater eternal blessings or it will simply drain away (cf. Matt. 25:14-30).
Perhaps during this Christmas season we might make the better choice. Rather than allow all the ‘mirth and merriment’ to take over, we might spend some time in quiet reflection, pouring over Jesus’ words with an open mind and a soft heart, taking stock of how we will choose to spend our time in the year to come.
Who knows what next year will bring? Maybe it’s the year that Jesus will fulfil the promise made by the angels on the Mount of Olives over 2,000 years ago (cf. Acts 1:10-11). We know His return is imminent. To doubt it is a sin (cf. 2 Pet. 3). Whether He returns next year, or the year after that, our time is precious. Let’s aim to use whatever time we have left focusing on ‘the one good thing’.
“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matt. 6:19-21)
Let me close with a few questions for you to contemplate:
- When you reach the end of your life, what do you want to be remembered for?
- What do you want your legacy to be?
- What’s the one thing that will matter?