New Addictions, Balance and Setting Priorities or, “Be Mary, Not Martha”

I’ve heard it said that, when a person gives up one addiction, he often finds another one. Maybe he gives up alcohol, but ends up in a drug addiction. I gave up my sexual addiction, and I’ve been looking for evidence of others. I think I’ve found one. Or, rather, my wife has.

Earlier this week, she brought up that, at every opportunity that we have to spend time together and develop our relationship, I find something else to do instead. I stay busy, with to-do lists and the “tyranny of the urgent” – as things come up, I consider them to need my immediate attention. Her sharing this baffled me. Now, she’s a trained counselor (and I’m not), so it’s not terribly unusual that something she tells me about myself baffles me. What baffled me about what she said was that I wasn’t purposely doing these things to sabotage our time together or our relationship development. I’m sure I’ve never had a conscious thought like, “Gee, I have some time, but the last thing in the world I want to do with that time is spend it with my wife.” So I asked her whether it was possible that I could be doing these things unconsciously – without meaning to harm our relationship with them. She said it was indeed possible.

Wow! The mind is truly a powerful thing, able to work covertly to accomplish Satan’s work in us, and us none the wiser. He would like nothing more than the total destruction of our marriage.

My wife mentioned things that had been taking up my time that was freed up by no longer engaging in sexual sin. There is my new interest in clothing and shoes, where I rarely gave either a thought before (since most of my thoughts were sinful and sexual in nature). Also, home improvement, home repair projects and garage organization. And my ability – no, my strong tendency – to attack whatever new idea pops into my head almost obsessively (okay, sometimes not “almost”, but completely obsessively). And, here’s a big one that blew up just the other night: doing something around the house that she wanted done (which, in my mind, was a good thing), but it took precedence over just spending time with her and talking to her.

This reminded me (or more likely, God placed in my mind) the story of Mary and Martha, from Luke 10:38-42:

“Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, ‘Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.’ But the Lord answered her, ‘Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.'”

I picture Martha running around, preparing food and cleaning up, cursing her sister in her mind for not helping her, while Mary is sitting at the feet of Jesus, just taking Him in and hanging on His every word.

Was what Martha was doing bad? People have to eat, and most of us do prefer a tidy home to sitting around looking at a mess. But, it’s not a matter of whether what we’re using our time for is good; we can do lots of good things, but miss the best things. It’s a matter of priorities. Our relationships are more important than any meal or having a spotless house.

And, what about those “urgent” things? Well, many just aren’t urgent. I just need to stop and think when one of those comes up, rather than my usual knee-jerk reaction to fix it or deal with it right then. Sure, when your child is bleeding or a pipe bursts, those things are urgent and need to be dealt with immediately. Most other things can wait.

My challenge is to stop thinking the way I always have. If something is irritating my wife, given all the wrong things I’ve done over the years (decades, actually) that have caused her pain, I want to do everything I can to fix whatever is bothering her. I have to continually remind myself, however, that she wants me and my undivided attention toward her more than she wants my “services” of fixing things for her. Balance is called for. What a concept!


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