Chill Out

In the story of Mary and Martha in Luke 10, I am 100% Martha. I love to work. I feel most comfortable and happy when I'm able to expertly and efficiently do a job, especially if I am doing multiple jobs simultaneously. In the American camps at which I've worked, my kind of approach thrives. I don't mind the fact that breaks don't exist and that I have a variety of responsibilities. I don't even mind the gross factor that comes into play, the days of pee or the one time I power washed month-old vomit out of a trash can. For me, the work is good because we as a team are sharing Jesus with campers and making the camp run. Service is hard, but it's also fun and fulfilling. I want a heavy burden. I want to work until I have nothing left and my body shuts down. I want that bone-deep exhaustion that fills up my mental capacity.

            French camps are significantly different. Service is still important, I have cleaned toilettes, made beds, swept, mopped, and managed to feed a bunch of hungry people, but it is restful. I have downtime to just read and drink tea. In fact, I haven't had so much consistent rest ever. Meals are longer, activities are not as strenuous, and people amble about everywhere just enjoying the views in comfort. It is so bizarre.

            My first week working at a French summer camp (I split my time two weeks at Teen Ranch and two weeks at Camp des Cimes), I did not handle the rest well. One evening I just started sprinting around camp much to the amazement of all of the French people. I didn't know how to stay so still, so at peace. My normal state of being stressed out was out of place.

             I felt my frustration level rise. I wanted more work, more struggle, more difficulty beyond the language barrier. Furthering my frustration was a pang of guilt that never subsided. After all, I'm a missionary. Shouldn't I be living in a tent somewhere with a net to ward off malaria? Shouldn't I struggle every day just to get by, washing my clothes in a creek? Shouldn't I suffer?

            This feeling only festered; then, I fell.

            A bunch of us took a late-night hike up a mountain to stargaze. I overeagerly started back down without a light through the trees and met a small cliff. I twisted and tumbled sideways, slashing my trousers and leg from knee to ankle and badly banging my bone against a rock. I wasn't sure if I broke my foot or just badly sprained and scraped it. If I had been alone, I'm not sure I would have gotten down the mountain or up the couple flights of stairs to my room. Not only did I have to slow down, but I had to ask for help. I had to chill out literally and ice my throbbing leg all of the time.

            Now, my leg is still a little swollen, but I can stand on it. Physically I'm improving, but I wish I could say that this story ends with me being less tightly wound, that I've mastered the French pace, and that I ask for help when I need it now. However, that would be far too easy. I'm not good at embracing the easy yoke and light burden that I'm offered. I'm working on working less. I know that Jesus rebuked Martha's frantic pace of work in favor of the posture of laid-back Mary who listened at his feet. Martha's fussing might be forgiven and even encouraged culturally, but it is necessary to sit down and listen to Jesus. It is necessary to let the day unfold and enjoy it. After all, as is so often said at my church in the States, if Satan can't make you sin, he will make you busy.

            One of the other service team members described it like this: we are trudging through thickly packed snow and next to us is Jesus driving a snowmobile. He wants us to get in and be warm. We are struggling, and he is there to be with us. He offers contentment, comfort, and peace, but we have to accept it. I have to choose to peace even when I feel like I should be struggling. Busyness in the business of ministry is not an adequate replacement for actual ministry or quality time with the Lord. In other words, working hard and worrying about what has to be done isn't always the right thing to do. Slow down and enjoy being with Jesus.