Whether you’re married, a mother, or working outside the home, one fact is true about the vast majority of women these days. We’re exhausted. We’re stressed out, overcommitted, tired, and dissatisfied with how we balance our responsibilities and our family life. Women are leaving the church or never joining in the first place, becoming part of the “Nones”, the group of Americans who claim “spirituality” but no particular religious affiliation, in numbers that have never been seen before. I can’t always blame them. There’s so much to DO to be a good Christian woman these days. Could it be that more women are burning out or just choosing not to get into the game at all?
Let’s face it, we’re all (usually) trying our ding-dang darnedest to be good neighbors, daughters, sisters, workers, caretakers, citizens, wives, housekeepers, cooks, mothers, grandmothers, teachers, students, advocates, etc., etc., etc. And in spite of being hopelessly overextended in our vocations, we still have trouble saying no to doing just one more tiny thing. It’s so hard for us to see a need that we know we can meet…and not just take care of it. Even when we do manage to honor some paltry boundaries on our time, energy, and/or resources, we’ll lay in bed at night, second-guessing our decision and trying to quell the nagging “guilt” that we’re somehow failing someone, somewhere. Or worse, that someone else is having to pick up the slack because we fell short.
Of course, we’d love to be more like Mary than Martha. But there seems to be a sick honor among women for being busy and tired. The more the better. Martha sure as heck knew that dirty secret. She undoubtedly knew all about the proverbial Proverbs 31 woman too. We’re often so exhausted and overextended that if we would just sit quietly at Jesus’ feet and soak up His Word like Mary, there’s a good chance we’d end up falling asleep and drooling all over His blessed toes.
But that’s exactly what He invites us to do. The Lord has given us a day each week to gather together as His Church, His beloved-amazing-perfect-sinless-spotless-blemish-and-wrinkle-free-holy-and-precious-bone-of-His-bones-and-flesh-of-His-flesh Bride, and receive the more-than-abundant gifts He has for us. He loves nothing more than to shower us, His Bride, with more forgiveness than we have sins, salvation from the condemnation we justly deserve, and another day of what will be an eternal life with Him. For free!
No demands made on us. No tugging on the heartstrings. No guilting us into one more commitment. No having to do anything at all. Just soaking it all up, as it fills our ears, drips down our foreheads, and is put right into our mouths. That’s why we call it the Divine Service — because God Himself comes to us and serves us, through the pastors he has called to stand in His stead and by His command and proclaim His Word specifically to us, the ones who are gathered there that day. That Jesus, He’s thought of everything! Not only does He provide the gifts, He provides a messenger to us to stand in His place as His proxy gift-giver too!
Even when we’ve barely limped our way through the front doors of the church building — all disheveled, fueled by caffeine and grumpiness, and still fighting the seriously strong temptation to turn around, go home, and crawl back into bed for just a few more minutes of precious sleep — the Divine Service is our weekly opportunity to rest in His gifts and be the ones who are served, by the Lord Himself, and by the men the Lord has given to serve us. We’re surrounded by them! Pastors, elders, ushers, fathers, grandfathers, brothers, uncles, neighbors…you name it. God has provided them to look out for us and make sure nothing gets in the way of our receiving Christ’s gifts in Word and Sacrament.
No one is served by our “pious” striving to be better Christian woman by working ourselves into exhaustion-driven health problems and early graves. We can stop comparing ourselves to one another through social media, giving those sidelong glances at the grocery store, spreading ourselves too thin, and beating ourselves up with false guilt. Jesus has called us to come to Him, and He will provide rest for our souls. He not only has provided a Sabbath for our rest, He Himself IS our Sabbath rest. All those demands of the Law, He exceeded. All the guilt, He crucified. All the exhaustion and pain, He bore.
So next Sunday, if you’re too tired to stand or sing, sit and soak it all in. Maybe even rest your eyes if you get the chance. Even if it’s just for a precious few moments. Receive all that your Lord has for you and the service of the men He’s provided to deliver it to you. And rest in the knowledge that everything that has ever truly needed doing has already been accomplished in the death and resurrection of Christ.
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
(Matthew 11:28-30 ESV)
By Sandra Ostapowich