Jesus was gently reminding Martha that the most important work of all is accomplished in Him. It is finished. Our hope in Christ is secure forever, no matter how productive we are. So how do we balance that hope with our God-given drive to be productive for our families?
Alright, I’ll admit it. I’m one of those people. You know, the really annoying ones you can never just sit and watch a movie with because they have to be working on something while they watch it. Relaxing for me means doing something productive. I was born with caffeine in my blood. I multitask to the extreme.
I just love to get stuff done.
But I also struggle with resting. It’s hard to let go of my plans. I don’t know when to stop. I’m often distracted by 12 things when I should be thoughtfully focused on one. And just because I get a lot done doesn’t necessarily mean I’m getting the right things done. When there is nothing on my list (a phenomenon that happens about twice a year), I don’t get excited – I get nervous.
The drive to be a productive woman is a beautiful thing. God placed a desire deep in the hearts of mothers to care for their homes and families. He gives us daily inspiration, creativity, and fresh drive to do our best for our loved ones. In Proverbs 31 we see a mom who rises early in the morning before her children to prepare a wonderful day for them. In Genesis we see that work was created before sin entered the world, making it originally a pure and beautiful concept.
But then I look in the book of Luke and see a woman who took it too far. She was so productive she missed the point of it all: sitting at the Savior’s feet.
“Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things;
but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:41-42)
The problem with productivity is that it can be addicting. The high from the sense of accomplishment wears off quickly and leaves you wanting more. Pretty soon the desire to be productive is never satisfied. Martha made getting things done the actual goal. Getting things done is a means to a much more significant end: glorifying God by blessing our families.
So how do we know if we are the Proverbs 31 woman or Martha? I’m sure both women looked very similar in practice.
1. When you compare your productivity to others’.
Have you ever been satisfied with what you were able to accomplish in a day until you got on Facebook and saw your friend’s freezer freshly stocked with freezer meals to last the next three years? Or maybe it was the birthday party that looked like Pinterest threw up all over your friend’s living room.
“Shoot! All I did today was feed my family a nutritious dinner and squeeze in two loads of laundry. What a wasted day.”
Or perhaps it’s the opposite. Maybe you feel like the day was a bust, but you scroll through Facebook and smugly think, “At least I obviously manage my time better than her.”
If the goal of our productivity is to bless our families then does it really matter what other people are doing? We are either blessing our families or we’re not. If another mom gets more done in a day, it doesn’t affect my family in the least. So why should it affect my heart?
2. When you hold contentment hostage until your list is done.
“I will not be happy until I accomplish x, y, and z today.” We probably don’t actually say those words out loud, but that’s what we’re saying when we fall into bed with a groan, too frustrated with what we left undone to offer thanks to God for the day.
But God is the One who puts limits on our days. This is what we should be able to say at the end of every day: “God, thank You for the tasks you gave me today and the strength You gave me to do them. The day didn’t go exactly as I planned, but it went the way You planned and Your ways are best. Tomorrow is a new day. Help me prioritize my time in a way that honors You and blesses my family.”
Moms, our lists belong to God. We made them so we could organize our time and our lives to serve Him and our families better. If we do our best then we can know that whatever got done was exactly what God wanted to get done. Can we be content with that?
3. When it causes strife in your marriage.
Chances are you and your husband do not have the exact same standards for productivity in the home. Husbands tend to see work as their primary outlet for productivity and home as their place of rest. But moms don’t usually have that clear distinction. Our place of rest and our place of work are one in the same. This causes tension.
I love this quote from fellow mom blogger Kelsey. She writes from the perspective of a demon uncle informing his demon nephew how to attack a Christian marriage (a play on CS Lewis’s “Screwtape Letters.”)
“If the husband relaxes in the evening with an hour of computer gaming, be sure the wife notices the pile of unfolded laundry or unswept floors. Do not let her grab a book and relax alongside her husband. Diligence, often one of the Enemy’s virtues, when overdone can be used to our advantage as well. Convince her that as long as there is a shred of work to be done (and there always is), no one should be resting. Then, as she folds and sweeps and he sits, you can introduce the sweet bitterness of resentment.” (Read the whole article here.)
Do you resent your husband when his to-do list is done and yours isn’t? Does his relaxation feel like a personal insult? When I see my husband relaxing and enjoying his home I have to remind myself that the goal of my productivity is being met right before my eyes: my husband is happy! And I know that he would rather have a dirty house and a friendly wife than a clean house and a wife shooting daggers at him with her eyes. If productivity is causing strife in your marriage, let your husband help you prioritize. You might have to let some things go for the sake of peace.
4. When we view our kids as interruptions.
The last time your child got the stomach flu, did he consult your schedule? How about when your toddler suddenly decided to never sleep again – ever. Did she conveniently wait until after your long family road trip?
God has a way of using our children to challenge our sense of control. I might say, “Today I am going to do all of the grocery shopping for the whole month,” and God might say, “Nope. Today your children are going to retest all the boundaries you have worked so hard to set. You will spend the whole day disciplining.”
Yesterday my toddler was playing with the CD player after I told him not to, but I was too busy with my “duties” to do anything about it. I had to catch myself – “Why am I not going to him? He needs discipline, but I just don’t want to stop loading the dishwasher.” Shepherding his little heart is more important that washing his little Winnie the Pooh dinner plate, but I didn’t recognize it at first.
There are days when I forget that all of my structure, all of my productivity, and all of my to-do lists are actually for my family. That’s when I have to hold up my to-do lists to God and surrender. My kids are not the exception to my day. They are my day. Does my attitude reflect that? They don’t see my lists. They just see me. I want them to always know that they are more important than my plans.
We moms need to remember that we can bring happiness to our families without having everything crossed off our to-do lists. The opposite is also true: we can accomplish everything we set out to do and sacrifice peace and harmony in our homes.
There is only one way to balance it correctly:
“But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Matthew 6:33)
Keep God’s glory and your family’s peace at the top of your list and you might find that your list is a lot shorter than you thought.
Ready for a Bible study written especially for busy moms in need of grace? Check out The Gospel-Centered Mom! Available on Amazon and Etsy!
Photo credit: http://www.rosilindjukic.com/2015/01/busy-mom-productive-mom.html http://lifemoresimply.blogspot.com/2013/03/tips-for-being-productive-at-home.html http://www.toulouseandtonic.com/productive-stay-home-mom/ http://karolsapple.blogspot.com/2009_01_01_archive.html