I recently heard Rob Bell on a podcast describe the gentle yet profound way in which people’s words can fall as like a velvet hammer. He talked about the best kind of wisdom that appears soft so you let down your guard and then it works its way in and you’re “just levelled.”
This has been my experience of meeting with a prayer guide over recent weeks.
Last week my prayer guide casually referred to “the other Sharon”.
We were reflecting on John 1:35-42, on spending the day with Jesus. At the end of the passage Andrew goes and gets his brother Simon and brings him to Jesus.
“Maybe you need to go get the other Sharon,” she said, “bring her to Jesus.”
The other Sharon.
It dawns on me slowly.
Then it strikes hard.
The other Sharon. Well, of course.
The one who doesn’t feel seen by Jesus, the one who doesn’t spend the day, the one who has trouble with this path.
I take this nugget away and it seems so obvious, now she has said it.
It explains so much.
We are drawn like moths to a flame to something that is true, beautiful, simple, profound. We find this way to look at Jesus, or ourselves. We follow a nudge of the spirit, we give something our Amen. We pick a priority for our family, we lean towards a way of parenting. We choose role-models, mentors, every day heroes. We say yes. We say no. We open our hearts.
We’re not sure. We falter. We’re not all in.
I don’t always pay her much attention, the other Sharon. I think I know what I’m about. I think I know better.
After the velvet hammer comment my prayer guide gave me Luke 10: 38 – 42. Mary and Martha. (The 2 Sharons, I think).
I spend a week with those 5 verses.
I am Martha. I welcome Jesus into my terrace house. He sits in the Parker Knoll chair, beside the bookshelves, my sister at his feet.
I welcomed him in, opened the door, but I am distracted. I am busy. I am playing a loop of ‘it must be nice for Mary‘ in my head.
Jesus says the words that I now have strung up in my kitchen, written in white chalk:
You are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed.
It dawns slowly, it strikes hard.
I am Mary.
I sit by the Parker Knoll and listen. I am drawn here.
But I hear the bustle around me and I feel judged. Even before Martha says anything out loud I feel judged, compared, uncertain.
Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.
I am surprised when Jesus says this. I don’t expect this validation.
It’s beautiful, my prayer guides tells me.
I am drawn to the feet of Jesus like a moth to a flame.
I suspect I am wrong.
I doubt my choice.
I take it away from my own self.
The truth is, I am open to seeing much of my bustle and productivity the way Jesus sees it – as worry and upset. I am open to his message – that few things are needed. I am open to his validation when I choose like Mary – it is better, it will not be taken away from me.
The truth is, I am open to these words and this message, but the other Sharon is not.
I have not internalised this voice of Jesus that I think I love so much. I don’t hear it.
I have internalised the voice of Martha. I hear – “aren’t you annoyed?”. I hear – “Tell her to help me!”
I wonder what Martha’s preparations were, what had her so distracted. I usually picture her in the kitchen, making dinner – because I am so often in the kitchen, making dinner. It’s important to me. I am drawn here too, actually.
I am Mary and I am Martha, and Jesus speaks kindly to me, whichever mode I’m in.
“God comes to me where I live and loves me where I am”, Brennan Manning says.
“If I am not where I am, God cannot meet me. It’s as simple as that.”
I’m in the kitchen.
I’m remembering that few things are needed, that what I have chosen will not be taken away from me.
I’m in the kitchen, listening to Jesus as I make bolognes.