To Savor and Delight: A Lenten Discipline

It’s been a challenge to be present in Lent this year…my mind is in this perpetual fog, which probably isn’t so surprising. During nursing sessions, when I’m able to I try to read whatever magazines are laying around the house – I’m able to catch up on a lot of current events, etc.

I came across Elizabeth Myer Boulton’s article in Christian Century called “Martha’s Problem,” – I expected the same-old-same-old conclusion: Don’t be a “Martha,” ie. a busy-body, be a “Mary.” Instead, she writes,

Martha is worried and distracted by many things. She’s like that house sparrow, like me at the dinner party, never stopping long enough to linger, to savor, to delight, to be at home in the presence of God.

As I read the passage for the umpteenth time, something clicks: this is the “one thing”! Mary has chosen this single-minded savoring and delight, and it will not be taken away from her. The story is not a celebration of study or inaction or even of sitting still. It’s a celebration of savoring, of delighting in God, of creating the possibility of sabbath even on the busiest of days.

By the same token, this story is not a critique of kitchen duty or the active life or just plain old getting things done. It’s a critique of worry and distraction. It’s a critique of being fragmented, of chasing after many things when there is only one thing.

Jesus stands firm for a reason: every one of us is called—commanded, really—to delight in God, our soft nest in a hard, lonely world. This is what Martha loses sight of and what all those commentators overlook.

The God who created creamy avocados and sweet corn on the cob, the God who let down manna from heaven, the God who even after death had a fish fry on the beach, is the God of grand dinner parties, soup kitchens, snacks and family meals. This is not a God against cooking or hosting or the menial labor that makes love possible.

There is the familiar “don’t worry” adage, but there’s more, and I like the twist. The difficulty for me these days really is worry and distraction, but a kind that I’ve never experienced before – keeping babies alive – and I needed to hear that this is a time that should be more than simple survival, but one of savoring…even in this wilderness season. I feel it in the seemingly small moments that I took for granted before – any kind of quiet, long hot showers, a phone conversation, and a walk in the warm sunshine. And it’s there in the moments that are wondrously new…the sight of a squirmy baby first thing in the morning, the smell if their sweet heads. Once again, that word “savor” seems to be coming to the surface of my life often this year…and even now in this new season I’m trying to embrace it.