Sunday, August 5, 2007

What Makes an Eternal Difference?

By Charlotte Lowrie

Last week, I was getting estimates on having the exterior of the house painted. The first estimator came into the house to review the estimate with me. As we walked in, I was immediately aware of how messy the living area looked.

My living area looks like a writer and photographer’s work area—stacks of books, ranging from photography books to Bibles and concordances cover most free surfaces, while camera gear fills the remaining surfaces. And a good chuck of floor space is devoted to my desk, two computers, and two large monitors. Why do I notice the messiness only when I see it through the eyes of a guest? But I noticed, and I was unsettled by it.

As the estimator and I talked, I tried to concentrate on the painting estimate, but in the back of my mind, I wondered why I hadn’t cleared the table so we could spread out the papers.

What Makes an Eternal Difference?

I didn’t think about the incident again until one morning in prayer and meditation. Gently, the Lord pointed out that I have a strong sense of responsibility for maintaining the house and yard. While that sense of responsibility is good, it isn’t the most important concern.

The Lord brought to mind the story of Mary and Martha. When Jesus came to visit, Martha was the one who fretted over the household concerns. I’m sure that Martha had many of the same concerns that we have today. What would they eat? Was the house clean? Who would go to the market for food and cook it? And when Jesus arrived, Martha was probably in a hot kitchen cooking.

Mary, on the other hand, was enthralled with the Lord. Unlike Martha, Mary likely didn’t care if Jesus or anyone else ate. She cared that she could sit at Jesus’ feet to absorb His presence and His words.

Martha fretted about earthly cares. Mary focused on Jesus. Martha complained to Jesus.

“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “You are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:41-42 NIV.

Like Martha, I fretted, although silently, that the house wasn’t picture perfect.

As the Lord showed me, the priority is to bring His presence to the others—in this case, to bring His presence to the my guest. No one cares what the house looks like. As a follower of Christ, it is all about Jesus—about bringing Him to the table.

The Lord asked, “Did your guest see you silently fretting about the house, or did He see Me?”

The answer was clear. I was preoccupied not only with the way the house looked, but also about the estimate, the contract, and the schedule. To my way of thinking, I was being responsible for the blessings that the Lord has given me. But, like Martha, I missed the point entirely. We are to focus on Jesus, not on earthly cares. Earthly cares will pass away. Jesus will never pass away.

I pondered this for many long minutes. Bringing His presence is a simple matter of asking Him to be present in all encounters. Nothing we do draws people to Jesus. Just as it has been for more than 2,000 years, people are not drawn to us, they are drawn to Jesus—to His presence.

A clean house makes no difference. Bringing Jesus to the table makes an eternal difference. That is what it means to do His will on earth, here and now, as it is in heaven.

If we don’t bring Jesus to the table, to the office, to the grocery store, to every encounter, who will?

Lesson Learned?

With this profound lesson in mind, I prayed with extra fervor that the Lord would be with me throughout the day. Then I left to run some hurried errands. As I stopped at various stores, I reverted to my usual strategy with sales people—keep conversations short and avoid unwanted sales pressure at all costs.

When I got home, I prayed again. Clearly, the Lord had seen many needs in the people we encountered that I had not seen. Instantly, I realized that it had been all about me again, all about my schedule. I had overlooked the need to bring His presence to all the people—even to eager salespeople.

I wish that I could say that I learned this vital lesson, and then immediately put it into practice, but I can’t. I trust that over time I will pray His presence in every encounter.

I know now that nothing will make a bigger difference both now and for eternity.