How many times have you said (or at least thought) – “If only we knew then what we know now?” This sentiment is expressed when hindsight gives you the benefit of seeing the past as the prelude to your present. The knowledge you now posses would have made all the difference to your previous behaviour and changed the direction of your path.
You needn’t be looking very far back to experience this regret – it could be applied toyesterday or last week. The key component is the wistful, backward look and realisation of the mistake of not seeing what was really happening.
Wise individuals who want to minimise such mistakes can and do look at other people’s pasts, read other people’s stories and study other people’s journeys to acquire those missing bits of knowledge and harness them for personal use.
I am going to suggest we look back at an incident to find our next gentle moment as well as to gain some insight for our repertoire, The incident in view is contained in a house in a village called Bethany. The home belongs to a lady named Martha and, in her kindness, she opens her home to Jesus of Nazareth. It is quite clear in the descriptions of Jesus’ life that the family living in this home were good friends of Jesus. Martha lived with her sister Mary and they had a brother, Lazarus, whom Jesus raised from death. He clearly loved them as friends and visited them on more than one occasion.
To make sense of Jesus’ state of mind at this point, you need simply to turn back one page in Luke’s account, where the narrator explains that the time was approaching and Jesus was resolutely setting out for Jerusalem. Inside his soul, Jesus was in turmoil and tension. He was steeling himself for his greatest challenge and a terrible death. We know this was the case because when he prayed in an olive grove before his arrest, He was sweating ‘like drops of blood’.
So when Martha opens her home, she lets in a man who is both Prince of Peace and full of sorrows – a walking paradox of hope and terror. He,at this point, is certain of two things: firstly, this is a fantastic moment for this house – the Son of God himself is within its walls; secondly, this moment will soon pass and he will be executed on a Roman cross.
For this moment to make any sense, what he needs is calm, and what they need, isto enjoy his company and feed on his presence.’
Unfortunately, Martha wants to extend her kindness to full-on catering. In a scene very easy to imagine, she gets busy sorting out as lavish a spread as she can afford, while her sister just sits and listens. In this moment, somehow Mary gets it and Martha does not. Martha’s frustration is very understandable. Her busyness is a heavy workload, and she wants Jesus to make her sister help.
Now we find the gentleness of the moment. Jesus uses her name twice and, with no harshness in the content of his words, he gives her an answer from one troubled soul to another. “You are worried and upset about many things,” he tells her,. “but only one thing is needed.”
His correction is so gentle that you can almost feel the reduction in stress. What he wants for Martha is that she will be nourished by his presence and get the profound benefits of this moment, as Mary was getting them. He wants Martha to see, taste and enjoy.
More than that, he wants her to do exactly what he is trying to do – put aside the million mental distractions and focus on the journey to the cross. If she will do that, she will help him more than can be measured: she will have given him, for just a moment, a spiritual home in which to rest – she will dine with him.
Jesus never criticised hospitality and never discouraged busy ness, but he wants you to harness your temperament to his journey so that you can find, either in quietness or activity, the nourishment of his presence. Amazingly, he invites you to share his struggles – for they are similar to yours – and in so doing, to let the Son of God into your space.
If they knew then, what they knew just a short while later, they would probably all have acted differently: Martha would have stayed calmer; Mary would have listened harder. In his kindness, he still invites you to work and walk his way.
By looking at this gentle moment, you can now know what you will need to know. You can harness hindsight for your present and your future – gently.
38As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. 39She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. 40But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” 41“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, 42but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”
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