I’m not a photographer, but I like to occasionally snap photos. I attempted some one day, intending to give them as a gift. If the photos were good enough, maybe the recipient would use them in advertising. So I felt pressure, albeit self-induced since the recipient knew nothing about my intentions.
Some I shot quickly, but on others I spent hours – too long, to the neglect of other tasks – creating an elaborate set-up. I didn’t capture the effect I had hoped, but instead of cutting my losses, I tried harder. Problem was, the longer I worked, the more panicked I felt. Finally, I had to concede what I suspected all along: the photo shoot was a bust. Even my favorite shot wasn’t that great.
I’d tried to capture a story within the frame. Surely a real photographer I knew, I’ll call her Dora, would note my intent and applaud my effort, even if the result was lacking. I cheered at the prospect of her encouragement and sent her my work for feedback. She’s a brilliant photographer, and one thing was certain: I could always count on Dora to tell the truth.
“I like the first one,” Dora texted, referring to one of the photos I’d just quickly snapped. I sensed she’d carefully chosen her words, but that didn’t stop my wry smile. I was grateful Dora couldn’t see it.
“That one took zero effort,” I shot back, not-so-subtly implying she’d overlooked my best. Now she’d see.
“How was your dinner tonight?” Dora asked, instead.
I’m quite sure the ego lives in the gut, and I’m equally sure bumper cars managed to enter said gut to batter what remained of my bruised pride.
How could she sweep aside my painstaking efforts in favor of the – what word even fit? Lazy. The photo she’d commended cost me virtually nothing in time or effort. How was lazy good?
Then I remembered a story that promised to help make sense of things.
Once upon a time, a lazy woman sat on her duff and listened to the stimulating conversation in her living room. Mary had heard men talk, but no one like this guy. She leaned forward, straining to hear over the din from the kitchen. She tried to push aside nagging guilt that her sister was doing all the cooking while she was having all the fun.
A woman’s voice screamed from the kitchen and a crash was heard as though there’d been a landslide of earthenware. A disheveled woman with red cheeks and wild hair burst into the room breathing hard.
“Jesus!” Martha’s voice was shrill. The men stopped talking and turned towards Martha, “Enough’s enough. Tell this lazy oaf –” Mary winced under Martha’s glare, “to get off her duff and HELP ME IN THE KITCHEN!”
Mary hastily stood up, eyes downcast, cheeks scarlet. I should have helped sooner. I knew Martha would get upset. How did I think it was right to be so selfish and sit here? What must Jesus think? Mary stared at the blurring floor. Curious men, one shamed woman, and one furious awaited Jesus’ response.
“Martha, Martha,” Jesus answered calmly, as if he dealt with frazzled woman attacking their sisters every day. He paused and then continued. “You are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is necessary.” Mary looked up startled. Had she heard correctly? “Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” Mary stared at Jesus, her mouth agape. He smiled at her. I wasn’t being selfish –? But –?
Martha paled and silently retreated to the kitchen.
Mary wondered if she had fallen asleep. She pinched her arm behind her back to make sure. She had been up extra early and had worn herself out trying to keep up with Martha’s to do list for tonight. Was she dreaming? The familiar nagging that occurred whenever Martha flew into a rage about something, came back. It was Mary’s duty to comfort Martha and she shouldn’t be so selfish leaving her sister alone – Except a stronger feeling was flooding her with peace, dispelling all that threatened to keep her ill at ease. Mary couldn’t stop looking at Jesus, his smiling eyes. The relief inside was growing into uncontainable joy.
Jesus motioned for Mary to reclaim her seat near him and resumed conversation with the men. Mary’s heart felt light as a feather of a bird free to fly.
The story faded. (Which you can read in Luke 10:38-42.) I thought about the photo shoot gone wrong and Dora’s response. I’d never before seen myself as both Martha and Mary in the story, simultaneously.
Part of me longed to be Mary – to be still and listen to God, to let my spirit breathe easy and rest in Him. I had snapped some quick shots with the time I had the one day. But I’d had a feeling they weren’t good enough? Maybe look lazy? Who can afford the luxury of being still and knowing God when there’s stuff to be done for Him?
The panicked, frantic Martha emerges in me putting time on a credit card hoping to do enough extra to impress, but only falling deeper into debt to perfectionism, a god that demands what Jesus freely gives: being enough in Him.
In the sense that we sit at Jesus’ feet, listening to Him, and letting Him be our enough, it’s not only ok, but highly recommended to live “lazily” ever after.