What’s the One Thing I NEED?

“Everybody I know says they need just one thing.  But what they really mean is that they need just one thing more.”

I love that line from the song “My One Thing,” by Rich Mullins.

I’ve been teaching lately about the story of Jesus being in the home of sisters Martha and Mary.  A countercultural interaction it was, as Jesus and a big crew of followers (70 or so) were hanging out at the home of a woman (Martha).  That was radical enough, but then her sister (Mary) dared to join the men in sitting at rabbi Jesus’ feet and learning from him, soaking in his lessons.  She knew that Jesus offer of justice and connection was available to all, not just to men, not just to specified disciples.  The story is told in Luke 10:38-42.

The gist of the recorded exchange between Martha and Jesus is that Martha is complaining that Jesus should chide her sister about lolling around and should make her get up and help with all the necessary tasks related to hosting so many people.

Jesus doesn’t take the bait.  Instead he tells Martha that Mary is the one who’s doing the right thing — focusing on him.  He says, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

That “one thing” is Jesus focus.  Mary had learned the secret.

As is always the case when we agree to teach something, we’ll need to learn that lesson ourselves.  How else can a teacher educate?  I love the verse in Isaiah (50:4) that refers to “an instructed tongue that knows the word that sustains the weary,” and talks about how God woke up the prophet morning by morning “to listen as one being taught.”

Often I chafe at the lessons I have to learn in order to teach someone else.  “Ouch!” is a frequent reaction.  Yet I also know that stale manna is not worth eating (or serving up), and that that’s what I’ll bring to those I teach if I’m not fed with something fresh myself.

This is a time in my life when I am craving that “one thing,” deep communion with God.  The world is too much with me.  I’ve had too much Christmas, too much holiday fun, too many cookies, too many tasks, too much hard news and too many sad stories about those I love.  The problems of the world are weighing me down.  Gun control, anxiety, disease, global warming, aching hearts, national debt, declining empathy… the list prattles on.  I’m even having dreams at night that let me know (as Psalm 16 promises when it says that “even at night my heart instructs me”) that I am carrying more of the weight of the world than I am meant to (by 100% percent since I am not responsible for any of it, burden-wise).

I’m seeing how hard it is for the “rich man” to enjoy the kingdom of heaven.  Not that the door is barred… just that the weedy cares of the world really do choke out the seedlings of our faith.

I’m seeing how much I tend to focus on the wrong “one thing.”  I come up with a system that I want to save me.  Just this week I’ve said:

  • If I can just get organized, I’ll feel less stress.
  • If I can clear my desk, I’ll feel better.
  • If I can have some quiet around here, everything will be okay.
  • If I can set and stick to some priorities, I’ll feel peaceful.
  • If I can have a day alone, life will return to normal.

Mercifully God has spared me from realizing those pipedreams.  If Dallas Willard hadn’t already claimed the phrase, I’d say that perhaps it’s a “divine conspiracy” that I continue to sit on a pile of can’t-get-to-its and can’t-catch-ups and it’s-all-more-than-I-can-handles.  Because it forces me to say that, like Martha, I could rant and rave to Jesus and tell him about all that legitimately must be done to make life work, to make life work in a way that I hope pleases God even, and he would say to me, like he did to Martha, “…only one thing is needed.  Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken from her.”

And then he’d say, “And it’s available to you too, Cary.”

Blink... and miss what you're after.


~ by Cary on January 27, 2011.

2 Responses to “What’s the One Thing I NEED?”

  1. love it, cary. it’s the lesson we learn we have to learn over and over and over. 🙂

  2. Unfortunately, yes!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: