While sitting down with my son to look over his online gradebook, I noticed his stress ratcheting up every time he didn’t have a perfect grade. The few assignments the teacher had not entered yet were stirring up the reservoir of fear deep in his belly and with every word he grew closer to tears.

“I did that one.
I don’t know why it’s not in there.
I don’t know why my grade is so bad.
Mommy, will you call her and tell her I did those papers?”

He had crossed into full blown ‘freak out mode’ in less than five minutes complete with hand wringing and a quivering bottom lip.
Did I mention he’s only in second grade? What do you say to a second grader in freak out mode over their grades? This kid is extremely bright and strives for perfection.

I needed to choose my words carefully
or I would just reinforce his idea that somehow,
he needed to work harder to fix this.

I began by explaining that he might have been gone during those assignments or maybe she just hadn’t entered the grades yet.
It didn’t help. He became more stressed at the idea of having to make up work.

So I stopped. I stalled him for a minute with a hug and a few words about freak out mode and I asked myself what I would need to hear if it was me.

The fear of not doing enough
and not doing it right was wrecking him.

So I directed our conversation away from the emotional issue of doing a good job, and started talking about the math. I showed him how to calculate percentages and that the blank rows were not hurting him because they weren’t included in the calculation. Slowly but surely, we backed out of freak out mode back into normal kid mode. The wringing hands dropped to his side and the red puffy eyes returned to their normal size and color.

I have to admit I am a little shocked at how fast he came out of that mess. At first I thought it was because he is very math minded and this explanation was right up his alley. When reflecting on what went right I went back to that question of what I would need to hear. Thinking about it, I almost laughed aloud.

I can guarantee he missed several of those assignments, but he doesn’t have to make them up. You see, he reads several grade levels ahead of most of his classmates. Several times per week he leaves his room and goes to the Kindergarten classes to read to a small group of younger kids. Other times he goes to an older class to be part of their reading group.

He missed those assignments
because his teacher told him to do something else.

I laughed at myself, because I go into freak out mode regularly. If I spend the day blogging, creating graphics, or planning ministry events I don’t get everything else done on my list. Sometimes Gary comes home from work to no dinner because I sat back down to work after setting the kids in and I completely lost track of time.

I stink at keeping the kitchen clean and my husband graciously takes care of it on top of everything else he does.

Since enrolling in grad school in January, I’ve been in freak out mode a lot. I too stress over missed assignments like cleaning the house, planning the garden, home cooked meals, and that never ending list of household projects.

I connect not doing those things to being
a bad mom, wife, and neighbor.
I wring my hands.
My eyes tear up and I need someone
to pull me out of the mess I think I’ve made.

God sent me the perfect partner in life who regularly reminds me of the math.  My husband often reminds me those things I’m not doing don’t count against me. Sure they may be in my job description, but sometimes my teacher sends me ‘down the hall’ to do something else.

If I trust God enough to go into that other classroom and learn the lessons they are teaching,
why don’t I trust Him enough to put down the things I can’t get to?

I feel like one of those muscle bound guys trying to pull a fire truck across a finish line. It’s ridiculously slow and if you lose your momentum, you are toast.  I mean, really, I am not a fireman. Why on earth am I pulling a fire truck? What a waste of energy!

How much faster could I get to the other classrooms if I stopped pulling that firetruck? How much more could I learn if I was paying attention to the teacher instead of worrying about the things I am pulling that God isn’t calling me to?

I keep thinking if I just work a little harder,
I will get caught up and be ready to go where God calls.

Sound familiar? I’m a lot like Martha. Worrying, preparing, and missing the fact that Jesus is sitting right in front of me. Sometimes I even get resentful towards the Marys who are already sitting in His presence while I rush around checking off my list.

People are pretty hard on Martha because they see her as a resentful worrier. Perhaps, like me, Martha was just trying to get her responsibilities taken care of so she could give her full attention to Jesus. Perhaps we are hard on her, because we are not really that different.

Have you ever thought sitting at Jesus’ feet is something we will do when our debt is paid down, our kids are grown, the house is clean, work slows down, or we finish some big project? Sometime in the future when all of those things are taken care of, He will get our full attention. But notice what He told Martha:

”But the Lord said to her, “My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.”  (Luke 10:41-42 NLT)

I think Martha was also pulling a fire truck sized load of guilt and expectations about what she was supposed to do to be a good host. When she came to Jesus frazzled he didn’t tell her she was failing.

He didn’t discount the fact that there were many other things she was called to do.
He just pointed out pursuing Him was the only thing worth that much energy.

It’s sooooo easy for me to get caught up in the day to day and forget to go where God is calling. I am grateful for panicking child to remind me that ‘freak out mode’ is a choice. He simply said only one thing was important enough for her energy. He wanted her to know the call to sit at His feet and listen was at the highest priority.  I think in her heart she knew it.  That’s why she was feeling conflicted and resenting Mary’s ability to sit and listen.

Are you in the same place? Perhaps you are so overwhelmed
and exhausted that you can’t sit and listen.

There is a way out. Step away from the emotional issue of doing a good job, and start talking about the math. Stop thinking you’re going to fail as a person if you stop doing things. If your push to check everything off is keeping you from God it is most definitely not from God.  God is fair and is not going to punish you for something He told you not to do.