We are given two directives in today’s scripture: Listen, and Act.
The first part is deceptively difficult. My own life is incredibly busy. I travel constantly for my work. I facilitate support for grieving people. I offer trainings and retreats. I write articles and columns. I have three adult children who are precious to me, and four grandchildren that I long to spend time with. And that doesn’t count my nine siblings and my aging mom
I am reminded of the refrain of a Paul McCartney song from the 70’s: “Someone’s knocking at the door. Somebody’s ringing the bell. Do me a favor. Open the door, and let ‘em in.” In the midst of my extensive “to-do” list and all the good I try to accomplish in my life, I too often block out the sounds of God constantly knocking at my door and ringing my bell. Or I acknowledge it by saying, “Yes, God I know you are there and I am so grateful for that. Thank you for never leaving me alone. But hang on a minute. I just need to do these couple of things before I sit down to pray. I’ll be right there.” The next thing I know, I’m lying in bed exhausted with only the energy for a quick “Thank you, God” before I drift off to sleep.
It is not that any of the things I feel such compulsion to accomplish are bad things. They are very good. They are things I do to advance the reign of God on this earth. But if I don’t take time to sit and pray, to stay deeply connected to God, to LISTEN, then I am acting under my own power, trusting in my own wisdom, and I am bound for burn-out. I need to make prayer a priority in my life. In fact, I need to pray before I get started on my to-do list, to ensure that I make time every single day to open the door and let God in.
Then I need to follow through on the second part of the directive – change. All the listening doesn’t do anything if I am not willing to surrender my heart, my will, and my life, and work to become an ever more transparent instrument of Christ. The purpose of prayer, after all, is not to change God’s mind; it is to change me. The closer I get to God, the more God can work within me, stretching me and molding me, helping me discover and use the gifts I’ve been given, and becoming the best and most complete version of myself.
That is the other reason for beginning my day with prayer. It allows me to then carry that prayer into my day, centered in the love of God and putting into practice what God is accomplishing within me. It may also keep me from listening to other voices in my life that run counter to God’s will for me and for the world. It gives me strength to speak when I am afraid, and wisdom to know what to do. It helps me recognize and confront words of intolerance, judgment, and dismissal of another’s humanity, especially when they come out of my own mouth. And I know it’s all too easy to demonize those who disagree, regardless of which side of the line I stand on. It forces me to question my motivations, desires, and goals. It challenges me to see how deeply connected I am to every other person. In short, spending time as Mary did at the feet of Jesus allows me to go into my Martha day in a way that avoids judgment, jealousy, and impatience, and instead brings light, love, compassion, and peace.
That is such a worthy goal, and one that we desperately need in our personal, professional, corporate, and political lives. So today, I recommit to hearing the bell and answering the knock by starting my day, every single day, with opening the door and letting God in. Will you join me?
Amy Florian is a teacher and consultant working in Chicago. For many years she has partnered with the Passionists. Visit Amy’s website: http://www.corgenius.com/.