Day 21: The story of Mary and Martha
Read through the events at Mary and Martha’s home in Lk.10:38-41 reflecting prayerfully on their significance.
As we begin the second-half of our series of studies we will begin to think more about growing a secure base from which to deepen our relationships. In the film Johnny English there is a scene in which one of the villains has a tattoo which reads, ‘look busy, Jesus is coming’. Something of this sentiment is seen in today’s reading. Whilst Martha was not just trying to look busy, her good work preparing for Jesus visit was admonished as the incorrect choice. Busyness can be a distraction from the important things in life. Likewise, our hard work thinking about our relational behaviours will be of little value if it is just based on being busy for Jesus. Jesus wants us to enjoy our relationships from a secure base in which our actions are not to impress him or others, but are purposed to help develop our friendships.
Why do we try to develop our relational skills?
Do we run a risk of looking or being busy working on self-improvement when what we need is to enjoy organic growth?
Would God still be your friend if you changed nothing?
Lord, we are often insecure and striving. Help us instead to rest and find the joy of godly security.
Day 22: Don’t worry about a thing
“And who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?” Mt.6:27
I think there was every chance Martha wasn’t trying to impress Jesus but was worried she needed to do all the tasks to be prepared for Jesus visit. The irony was that in doing the tasks she was actually missing Jesus visit. We can do the same in our relationships. We can be so busy preparing our home for friends to visit that we are too tired to enjoy the time with them or too distracted with the task of entertaining. Why do we do this? Relationships are about interactions and not the judgment of the external factors. However, many of our insecurities can focus on worries about the external matters; the arrangements, the preparations, the entertainment. Friends will want to spend time with us for being us. Which of us has ever added any enjoyment or quality to our relationships through worry?
Is there a place for preparation in relationships? If so, what is it and what do we need to guard against?
Why do we worry about what our friends think of our possessions or abilities as hosts? Does this serve a purpose?
Lord, our friends, like you, like us for who we are. Help us not to worry about who we are.
Day 23: Loving self
“The entire law is summed up in a single command: “Love your neighbour as yourself.”” Gal.5:14
Yesterday we spent time thinking through not worrying about who we are or how we might be judged. Today we go a step further, moving from the absence of the negative to an embrace of the positive. When we read this verse we can easily skip the second part and focus on loving others. Loving others is certainly good, right and proper! However, in this verse it is based on the assumption that we will love ourselves equally. Perhaps it is this love of self that was missing in Martha’s life as she strove to serve. Yet loving ourselves is a fundamental basis from which to love others. When we love ourselves we respect and look after ourselves, physically, emotionally and spiritually. We also learn to love who God has made us to be. This level of security in God’s creative activity provides a solid base from which to grow relationships.
What does it practically mean to love ourselves?
What does it emotionally mean to love ourselves?
Several times throughout the day try telling yourself that you love being you.
Lord, we thank you that you love us. Help us to love ourselves that we might truly be able to love others.
Day 24: Finding an anchor for the soul
“We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure …” He.6:19
I can be ridiculously optimistic at times! Pretty much before the start of every football season I think West Ham are going to be amazing and, whilst not quite challenging for the title, at least be one of the best teams competing. Unfortunately, this hope is based on my own desire and short sightedness. So why should we be optimistic about our own lives? If that optimism is based on our own desire and insight it is likely to be limited in its resource. Fortunately it is not. Our optimism is based on the hope we have in Christ. Our security is not found in our own ability to think the best, but God’s commitment to loving us. If we can grasp this, loving ourselves, and developing a secure base to love others, will be a whole lot easier. As for being optimistic about West Ham, well as the club’s anthem goes, “fortune’s always hiding”.
What is hope?
Why is hope so important to our relationships?
Why should we be hopeful?
What difference can hope make to our relationships?
Lord, we thank you for your hope. Help us to know today that, “you’ve set your hope in me”.
Day 25: Growing humility
“Jesus knew that the Father has put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so …” Jn.13:3-4
We don’t need to look far in our celebrity obsessed culture to find people who love themselves to such a degree they show no self-awareness in their relationships with others. As Christians seeking to develop our love for ourselves in a godly manner, we should not allow a rejection of this to become confused with our understanding of humility. In the verses above we see how Jesus served others in humility because he knew who he was, where he was from, and where he was heading. Being humble is not putting ourselves down, but knowing the reality of who we are and what this means for the way we approach our relationships. As we develop a secure base for our relationships our humility will increase not through thinking less of ourselves, but through understanding our relationship to God.
Why is false or forced humility so damaging?
Is humility something we strive for or something that grows naturally?
What is the relationship between loving self and being humble?
Lord, help our humility to be an expression of love for you and your creation, including ourselves.
Day 26: Sometimes we are just wrong
“A mocker resents correction; he will not consult the wise.” Pr.15:12
Let’s face up to it; there are times when we are simply wrong about things. We might hold a belief or perspective for genuine reasons and be well motivated, but this does not make our perspective right. Part of developing a secure self, and good relationships, is being able to give and take corrective criticism. Once again, this is about vulnerability. Often we have friends with similar views to ourselves, so when we ask them about something they may not be in a position to correct us if we are mistaken. We need to be wise, humble and secure enough to seek the challenge of others who will question us. If we never put ourselves in a position where other people can tell us we might be wrong, we cannot really grow in our maturity. Accepting our humanity means accepting sometimes we need correction, and that this is for our good, it does not belittle who we are.
What do you find harder; to give or receive correction? Why?
Do we have people we can turn to for an honest appraisal? If not, what can we do about it?
Does being wrong matter?
Lord, you are all knowing, help us to be all seeking.
Day 27: The security of direction
“He who is the Glory of Israel does not lie or change his mind; for he is not a man, that he should change his mind.” 1 Sa.15:29
Despite being quite happy at getting lost when I am travelling (or at least used to it) there are some things I have to know if I am to feel secure about my journey. I need to know where I want to end up and that I’ll be able to find somewhere to eat to sustain me en-route! Unfortunately, life in general is not so straight forward. In life, we don’t always get to see the destination point we are heading towards and often don’t know how provisions will be made for the journey. This could lead to us either floundering directionless or fearing a lack of resources. Thankfully, we have a God who has started the journey with us in our lives and who will not change his mind. He has a plan and direction and has the provisions to make it happen. Being secure in God’s plan is not always about knowing all the answers, but knowing that we have a God who knows.
If we accept we do not need to know all the answers, what difference will this make:
…to our lives?
…to our relationships with others?
Are there matters we need to let go of today?
Lord, you have a plan for us and the resources to sustain it. Help us to find security in this.
Day 28: Being children of God
“How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!” 1 Jn.3:1
Have you heard the phrase, you can’t choose your parents? In this passage we are reminded that we have been chosen to be children of God. As with any new born, this means we need to rely upon our parent to help us grow and mature. As he is a perfect parent, God will feed and nurture us and we need to respond with obedience as we are perfectly loved. As a chosen child, God has taken an interest in every detail of our life. We have done nothing to deserve his grace, and can do nothing to lose it. We may have had a great or difficult experience with our earthly parent(s) but our relationship with our heavenly Father is one in which we are lavished with love and grace. Therefore we can thrive in our growth and development. Understanding this unending love for us provides us with the perfect security and example for our relationships with others.
How much more do we need to understand what it is to be a child of God?
In God we may become child-like again. How is this different to being childish?
Do we need to become more dependent on God today?
Lord, thank you for choosing us. Reveal to us more fully what it means to be your child.
Day 29: We delight God
“The Lord your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.” Zep.3:17
I remember being at university and going on an Anglican chaplaincy weekend away where one of my friends told me just how awkward they felt about one of the worship songs. Their point of contention was with the lyric, “you do all things well, just look at our lives.” I’d never really thought about it but could see their point. The thing is we often think of humility as belittling ourselves instead of us knowing our position as children of God. More so, we are not just begrudgingly called children or partially accepted. When we become children of God he delights in us and sings over us. Not because of our greatness, efforts or achievements, but because he has done all things well, including redeeming our lives. This provides us with security to help us through tough times in our relationships.
What difference will it make to your life today knowing that God is singing over you?
How can we take the knowledge of God delighting in us to help us in our relationships?
Lord, it can be hard to grasp your love and delight in us. Help us to accept and dwell on this today.
Day 30: Doing without being?
Re-read the story of Mary and Martha in Lk.10:38-42 thinking over the studies over the past 10 days.
As we return to the story of Mary and Martha it is interesting to think again about how we might be more like Martha in our actions than is helpful. Perhaps the story still seems a little unfair to us, after all, it looks like Martha was only trying to do what was right. But it seems to me the lesson is more about us basing our relationships on knowing rather than doing. Mary was able to just be in the relationship, Martha was too focused on doing. In these past 10 days we have been focusing on what we are in our relationship with God. We have no way of earning the relationship, it’s one built on us just accepting and being who God has made us. As we grow in this knowledge, and our sense of security becomes God-centred, we will bring a far more secure basis to our relationships with others, not needing to fear, threat or worry.
What has been the biggest challenge to you over the past 10 days, and what is God saying to you about this?
What difference will knowing who you are in God make to your relationships? Why? How?
Lord, we have, do, and will make mistakes. Help us not to be discouraged by these but instead to know how you see us.