Hi there! I’m Dana and so excited (and nervous) about writing my first blog post! I’m honored Julia would ask me to contribute to this amazing blog and I’m grateful you’re reading it. My husband and I pastor Lifeline Church in Christiansburg, VA and we have 3 amazing kids! My evenings are spent either cheering them on from the bleachers or driving them from place to place. For 19 years, I’ve spent my week days in the pharmaceutical industry which I really enjoy because I get to meet and work with so many great people. I’m a huge advocate for letting the light of Jesus shine through us in the workplace...that’s another topic for another day.
The upcoming Crowns Conference has been a joy and privilege to plan with Julia and I’m beyond excited about what God has in store for us at this event! I hope to meet you there and get to know you! My goal today is to share a little about me and hopefully impart some wisdom from The Father.
It was a cold snowy day in December when I was born...ok, I won’t go back quite that far and bore you to tears. However, at a very young age a defining moment changed everything for me and my family. After a long and hard battle with cancer, my father died when I was only 4 years old. You might think it strange but I can remember a great deal about my father and the events of that time. I can only thank God for the special gift of those memories. My younger brother was only 9 months old and immediately I knew that I was Mama’s right hand lady and my brother’s second mom. As a type A, first born daughter I knew it was time to rise to the challenge and help take care of everyone. My grandfather would tell me after every visit, “listen to your Mama and take care of your brother” and that was my mission in life. What’s wrong with that role? It seems heroic and inspirational. The problem is, that role became my identity. Being perfect, acting right, making straight A’s, working hard, accomplishing, achieving and producing defined me. Even typing those words right now makes me feel good. I want to shout, “yes! Let’s get it done!” Those words have meaning and for me they spell out success and acceptance. I believed that living out that role earned my family’s approval and love. Subsequently, I assigned that same expectation on God. Despite my family and my church telling me that Jesus died for me even in my sin, I believed the lie of the enemy that I had to earn the love and approval of Father God. Therefore, I worked harder in school and later in college and then in my job and even in ministry, all the while thinking less of anyone who appeared to not be working as hard as me. I was Martha.
The Gospel of Luke (10:38-42) tells us a story about two sisters. Martha and Mary are at their home with Jesus along with a houseful of guests. Jesus had been traveling and ministering away from home. He and his friends must have been glad to see each other after a time apart. Mary sits at Jesus’ feet with the disciples. Martha works in the kitchen, protesting that her sister should come in and help with the preparations. Martha even goes so far as to demand Jesus to compel Mary to come and help her.
Let me pause the story here to say I’m fully on Martha’s side as I read this story. I am afraid to say (if I’m honest with myself) that even with the Savior of the world in my home I would be in the kitchen banging pots and pans around muttering under my breath hateful words against those who were not helping. Is that so wrong? Didn’t God create me with administrative gifts and a strong work ethic? If the Martha’s of the world didn’t work and actually get something done then the world would be in mass chaos, right? Yet, many in the Christian world have criticized Martha as not being sensitive enough to the spirit of God or not eager enough to be in the presence of God. And perhaps they are right because here is what Jesus had to say, “Martha, Martha...” He uses her name twice to gently and compassionately teach her. “You are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.”
What one thing is necessary? What is the better part? It is necessary and better to be mindful of the presence of the Lord and to put Him first...in everything. That sounds so easy but for a Type A, goal-setting achiever such as myself it’s not a simple thing to lay aside the “to do” list and just sit at the feet of Jesus. The struggle is real. The list never gets done and therefore the time with Jesus is neglected. There is this tension between our work life and times of communion and rest with the Father. We need balance...oh there’s a cultural buzzword that seems so unattainable. Yet, we can find the balance between the two when we choose to fall into step with Christ and move to His rhythm. How? We take on His yoke.
But wait, I thought a yoke is an instrument of work and represents a burden or a heavy weight of responsibility. However, Jesus seems to say the very opposite in Matthew 11:28-30 ESV, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” What can this mean?
Farmers used to train their young oxen to plow by partnering them with stronger and more mature oxen. The job of the younger ox was simply to follow in the same direction and keep pace with the teacher ox. The older ox pulled most of the weight and understood the commands of the plow driver. As long as the young ox followed the older ox, everything was fine. But if the younger ox decided to speed up or lag behind, the work became much more difficult. Only by keeping pace with the older ox could the younger ox complete the day’s work without collapsing from exhaustion.
When we are yoked with Christ, He carries most of the weight. Being yoked with Him means that we are living in a way that allows us rest because we are under His covering of grace. True success is found when our “to do” list is yoked with Christ and He is guiding our steps. And that success is the ultimate approval. There is nothing higher or greater than knowing your accomplishments...landing a great job, finishing your thesis, meeting a sales quota or just finishing all the laundry...have been done for the glory of God with Him right by your side.
I truly believe it is a ploy of the enemy to distract us women with busyness and chaos which leads to fear and anxiety. We live in fear that we will never get it all done. We are constantly comparing ourselves to others who seem to have it all together. We build our identity around our own definition of success and we assign God’s approval and love to our own measure of worth. The anxiety builds keeping us from fulfilling God’s purpose for our life. That purpose is for us to take on His yoke and get into step with Him. Success is defined by glorifying Him in all we do, worshiping Him and giving Him honor in all things. Now, that’s a yoke worth bearing!