Puppet on a String?
Chaplain’s Corner by then MCF Chaplains’ Representative, PCHAP Eric Burton, RAN
You have a million e-mails to answer, kids to drop off at childcare, hubby is away on deployment, you are behind on paying the bills, the boss is screaming for a paper due 3 days ago, you have not rung your mum for 3 weeks, the lawns need doing. You are behind in your exercise plan. So many ought to do’s in life – so little time.
One of the most powerful stories from the bible, which has something to say about the frenetic pace and demands of modern day, concerns one of Jesus’ most close family friends. There were two sisters and a brother. Martha and Mary were the sister’s names and Lazarus was the brother. (That’s right the same Lazarus who was raised from the dead) It seems that Jesus used to drop in quite regularly at their house to visit. On one occasion he stopped in. It seems that Martha was a natural worrier, perhaps a workaholic and somewhat of a perfectionist. When Jesus dropped in she kept working to get everything just right. Her sister Mary however was content to sit and talk with Jesus. Martha was quite resentful that Mary was not pulling her weight. Don’t fret – indicated Jesus, who sensed the conflict – Mary has chosen the right way.
Sometimes are lives can seem like being a puppet. The puppeteer, representing the demands of others, pulls the strings and we respond – trying to please everyone, trying to keep up, and trying never to disappoint. Perhaps a better analogy is that there are several puppeteers all trying to pull the strings. The result of this lifestyle is usually guilt and sheer exhaustion. Please note that in the visit of Jesus – recorded in Johns Gospel – Mary lets Martha down. She refused to let Mary pull her strings. Mary makes a deliberate choice to set her priorities even if it means that other people may not be happy. As you can see, those priorities involve taking time out to be apart from the craziness of life and communicate with her friend and Master.
For our lives both at work in the military and at home we need to take charge of our time as best we can and not simply respond uncritically to others demands. Here are a few ideas.
• Take time out to reflect quietly about your life and where it is going. Give opportunity for the Spirit of God to talk with your spirit. Just yesterday I took 2 hours to sit by the Lake Burley Griffin in my car to think and pray. I am sure I had a better rest of the day.
• Don’t load yourself up with the demands of others. No matter what rank, let your boss know if you are under work pressure. We are a ‘can do’ Defence Force and there are times of long hours and duress – however whenever possible give yourselves a break.
• Be realistic about your limitations and the inherent ‘messiness’ of life. Don’t try and do it all or fix it all. Relax – be happy.
• Realise that the ‘default’ position of your life should be peace and joy as a child of God. This is your birthright. (Galatians 5) If you are feeling driven and harried most of the time look for ways to deal with this; be prepared to make major life changes if necessary.
• Think about other’s needs and help others, more than yourself – freedom from worrying about yourself is something to be highly prized.
Wishing you the Peace of God, which passes all understanding.