“…make the contribution to this world that he reserved for you to make.”
We live in a culture loaded with messages about making a difference and changing the world. I’m often overwhelmed by all the options, along with the nagging sense that I’m not doing enough. But this line, taken from Katie Brazelton’s Praying for Purpose for Women, lifted a weight from my shoulder. Instead of thinking of the big difference, the big change, the big impact, what if I focused on the contribution God designed me to make? Sure, this might be big. It might be huge. Or it might be a few years of prayer at a parched public school. It might be a message I give to one of my kids. It might be something I say to someone, thrown out casually, that changes his or her life. If I can put on the blinders to everything else, I’m left with contribution. God has something I’m meant to do. Something He’s endowed me with that I’m meant to leave behind when I’m gone. Suddenly, it’s not so overwhelming anymore. Those restrictions in my head about value and importance fade, and I see more broadly that my purpose might be anything, big or small. Moreover, I see the many ways I could already be contributing to His master plan.
When Mary and Martha hosted Jesus and his disciples, Martha also found herself caught up in the many important contributions she could be making to the event: “As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But 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!’ ‘Martha, Martha,’ the Lord answered, ‘you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her'” (Luke 10:38-42). And truly, it’s easy to come to a simplistic conclusion from this passage–overworking and stress are bad, listening to Jesus is good. And yes, that’s a safe assumption to make.
But there’s also some nuances here. For one, Jesus reminds Martha that she is “worried and upset about many things.” It speaks to me that He doesn’t say that she worries, as in a character fault, but that she is worried, signifying that in the moment, she is focused on too many things. The trait of working–whether good or not–isn’t condemned here, but rather the act of being worried about “many things” in a moment that needs only one thing. Jesus continues that, in this moment, there was one thing needed, and he was not going to ask Mary to give up that one thing. I’m sure Jesus wanted to eat, too. I’m sure He knew that Martha’s heart was in the right place. It was just a little unfocused. What I hear in these verses is a particular observation on our tendency to get distracted by the important and forget about what’s necessary.
In other words, I can worry about many things–solving crises, serving people near and far, etc., all of which are good and important things–but if I haven’t found and focused on the one necessary thing that God reserved for me, I’ve missed the point. Works done through faith have their place(see James 2:14-25), but the key there is faith. Faith first. Works out of faith. One contribution at a time.
I pray today that I might be open to the contribution God has planned for me (whatever it may be), that I can stay focused on that contribution and not be distracted by the many other important contributions I could make, and that I also appreciate the big and small ways that I am already contributing.
What contributions are you already making, and how might God be using those contributions for His service?